In his first comment on the recently approved Non-Governmental Organisations (NGOs) Law, President Abdel Fattah Al-Sisi said he cannot interfere in the parliament’s work, neither on amendments to this law nor any other issue.
Al-Sisi’s statement came on Saturday during the first monthly follow-up meeting for the National Youth Conference. The president continued that the law has not been sent yet to the government or the presidency for review and discussion.
Throughout this year, the security crackdown on civil society members has become harsher than ever before, as arbitrary violations were practised against them. They have long-called for a law that would regulate their work, wishing that the law would be more fruitful than that of 2002 which imposed several restrictions on their work.
However, parliament recently approved an even worse law—which was, in a way, unprecedented. This is the first time, since its beginning in January, that the parliament has concluded a law quickly, secretly, and without the participation of any government or civil society representatives. Furthermore, the law was drafted by a member of parliament and was given priority in discussions over the draft submitted by the government.
Following its approval, several heads of local NGOs complained of the dire consequences that they will face in their work, and asserted that this law will effectively eliminate civil work in Egypt. Not only NGO members condemned the law and called for its amendment—even MPs and politicians, as well as international figures, rejected it. However, the government has not yet responded to any of these calls.
In conjunction with the International Day for Human Rights, politicians, MPs, and NGOs released statements focusing on the demand to review the recently approved NGO Law.
The Egyptian Commission for Rights and Freedoms (ECRF), which previously faced a security raid, released a statement prioritising the NGOs issue. It demanded that the president reject the law and return it to the parliament for rediscussion after meeting with NGO members and listening to their views and recommendations.
It also called for human rights defenders to be protected from harassment by security forces or the judiciary, and to allow them to perform their work under the United Nations declaration for Human Rights Defenders in 1998. In addition, the commission called for community awareness to be raised regarding civil society’s role, and NGOs in particular, rather than prompting hostility against them. Moreover, it also ordered that arbitrary measures against lawyers and political activists be limited.
Hafez Abu Saad, a member at the semi-governmental National Council for Human Rights (NCHR), said the council has several comments on the law, depicting it as “confiscating freedom to work”. He added that the amendment of certain articles in this law is important, calling on the president to return the law for review.
Violations against NGOs and their members range from the reopening of the “NGOs foreign funding” case of 2011, to travel bans and security raids. Eight prominent figures received travel bans and the assets of five members were frozen in connection with the case.
These violations were practised against the director of the Arabic Network for Human Rights Information Gamal Eid, renowned journalist Hossam Bahgat, the head of the Cairo Institute for Human Rights Bahey El-Din Hassan, the director of the Hisham Mubarak Law Center Mostafa Al-Hassan, the director of the Egyptian Center for the Right to Education Abdel Hafiz Tayel, the director of the Egyptian Center for Egyptian Women’s Legal Assistance Azza Soliman, and the head of Nazra for Feminist Studies Mozn Hassan.