The House of Representatives approved on Tuesday the controversial 89-article, Non-Governmental Organisations (NGO) Law. It was drafted by members of parliament after they turned a blind eye to another bill drafted by the government.
The leaked bill that was drafted by the government was heavily criticised by human rights groups; however, the bill drafted by parliament was stricter and included prison sentences of up to five years.
The approved bill bans any NGO activities that are not regulated by the terms of the bill; it further limited their work to social work and developmental fields. A prison sentence of up to five years will be handed down in case of violation.
One of the most controversial provisions in the bill was the overseeing of NGOs by security agencies, including the General Intelligence and the Ministry of Interior. Activists were demanding to be monitored by the judiciary system.
Human rights lawyer and executive director of the Arabic Network for Human Rights Information Gamal Eid had previously told Daily News Egypt that the National Security apparatus was definitely involved in the creation of the draft law.
Eid added that the bill gives the security apparatus complete authority over the work of NGOs, and it will be responsible for accepting or rejecting the funding of NGOs and may even close the NGO without a court ruling.
According to the Egyptian Constitution, NGOs can be formed with no prior approval from authorities; however, the bill stipulates that the NGO may be dissolved if their practices don’t comply with the suggested bill.
In 2011, prosecutors, backed by the police, stormed the offices of about 17 local and international NGOs and opened the “NGOs foreign funding” case against them. This case was recently reopened and resulted in freezing the assets of several activists, including Eid.