Amnesty issues action alert on NGO bill

Amnesty International has issued an urgent action alert regarding Egypt’s draft NGO law, as the deadline for human rights organizations to register with the government as per the 2002 law’s stipulations draws closer.

In the statement, Amnesty exhorted the authorities to lift the September 2 registration deadline, and to end its “crackdown on civil society, in particular by ending investigations into the legitimate, peaceful activities of human rights organizations and the harassment of human rights defenders. [Amnesty International urges] authorities to withdraw the current draft law… and to ensure that any legislation regulating non-governmental organizations upholds the right to freedom of association.”

Non-governmental organizations that do not register by the deadline face closure and criminal prosecution. However, in its statement, Amnesty claimed the Ministry of Social Solidarity was refusing the applications of those groups that were trying to register.

On July 18, the state-owned newspaper Al-Ahram ran a spread from the Ministry of Social Solidarity on the 22nd page, the first widely circulated notice of its kind. The government’s message to civil society groups was clear: adhere to stringent regulation, or face legal action and dissolution.

In the statement, the ministry declared that non-governmental bodies had 45 days to legalize their status in accordance with the 2002 Civil Association Law and new legislation regulating civil society work. 

Human rights organizations interpret last month’s notice as a warning sign of yet another wave of state attacks on civil society. Past government crackdowns have included smear campaigns against NGO groups and activists, armed raids of NGO offices, the seizure of private information and property, the harassment and arrest of NGO employees and office closure.

In its call, Amnesty International warned NGOs are “at risk” as the deadline looms.

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