July 26, 2019

Human Rights Watch on Wednesday called on Abdel Fattah al-Sisi not to ratify the NGO law and instead return it to parliament and amend it.

In a statement the organisation noted that the law was passed hastily in parliament, which went through 107 articles in one session before being sent to the State Council for review. It was returned to parliament after less than a day, and sent to the president for ratification during that month.

The organisation criticised its constraints, the most prominent of which is to prevent NGOs from conducting opinion polls or field research and publishing their findings to the public without prior government approval. It also prevents them from carrying out activities in advance if they are “political” or “detrimental to national security.”

According to Human Rights Watch, the law allows the government to dissolve NGOs under a wide range of alleged violations, as well as administer financial sanctions of up to EGP 1 million pounds for organisations operating without a license and receiving or sending funds without government approval.

The law also imposes a penalty of up to EGP 500,000 on organisations that finance activities the government deems to be contrary to the pre-determined activity of the association, or violate the law, or if they refuse to provide data or information to the government regarding the activities of the association.

The new law also prohibits NGOs from cooperating with foreign organisations or experts and asks that they gain prior approval from foreign organisations to be able to operate in the country, and allow the government to monitor their day-to-day work.

The new law comes in line with al-Sisi’s own directives to amend the law passed by the House of Representatives in November 2016, after a vote that one of the deputies described at the time as being too hurried.

On July 15, the House of Representatives approved the draft law submitted by the government on NGOs.

In clear violation of the constitution, speaker of the parliament Ali Abdel Aal forced the deputies present at the plenary session to take the final vote on the law, despite the presence of less than 150 deputies in the chamber out of 595 parliamentarians.

There are roughly 50,572 associations and foundations in Egypt. Some 30,402 are active and about 1,106 are inactive; 5,594 have been dissolved, 414 have been banned and 81 have been suspended, according to official estimates issued by the Ministry of Solidarity in January.