UN calls on Egypt to scrap NGO act

The Star Early Edition - - NEWS -

THE UN hu­man rights com­mis­sioner has urged Egypt to re­peal a new law on non-gov­ern­men­tal or­gan­i­sa­tions, warn­ing that mea­sures that cur­tail gov­ern­ment’s ac­count­abil­ity and “muz­zle dis­sent only lead to in­sta­bil­ity” in the fu­ture.

Law 70 of 2017, which was en­acted last month, re­quires all NGOs to work in line with the gov­ern­ment’s de­vel­op­ment and so­cial wel­fare plans or face jail.

“The cru­cial func­tion of these NGOs – to hold the state ac­count­able for its hu­man rights obli­ga­tions – has been se­verely ham­pered al­ready through as­set freezes, travel bans, smear cam­paigns and pros­e­cu­tions,” said UN High Com­mis­sioner for Hu­man Rights Zeid Ra’ad Al Hus­sein. “This new law fur­ther tight­ens the noose.”

The law also re­quires civil so­ci­ety or­gan­i­sa­tions to re­port all in­for­ma­tion on fund­ing, ac­tiv­i­ties and pro­grammes to au­thor­i­ties, and to seek per­mis­sion for con­duct­ing sur­veys and any other ac­tiv­i­ties.

Civil so­ci­ety groups have been dis­solved

The lat­est law re­places Law 84 of 2002, which Zeid said was “al­ready re­pres­sive”.

In re­cent years, hun­dreds of civil so­ci­ety groups have been dis­solved or had their as­sets frozen un­der this leg­is­la­tion.

More than 37 Egyp­tian NGO staff have been ac­cused of “il­le­gal re­ceipt of for­eign fund­ing” and “work­ing with­out le­gal per­mis­sion”, ac­cord­ing to the Of­fice of the High Com­mis­sioner (OHCHR). None of them have been of­fi­cially charged.

The re­vised law “places such tight restric­tions on civil so­ci­ety that it ef­fec­tively hands ad­min­is­tra­tion of NGOs to the gov­ern­ment”, Zeid said.

He added that while na­tional se­cu­rity was a con­sid­er­a­tion in Egypt, “muz­zling” civil so­ci­ety was not the so­lu­tion.

“Civil so­ci­ety and me­dia over­sight of the gov­ern­ment are es­sen­tial el­e­ments of a strong and sta­ble so­ci­ety, where griev­ances can be openly aired. Muz­zling dis­sent can only lead to fur­ther in­sta­bil­ity,” he warned. – ANA

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