The European Union (EU) criticised today Egypt’s recently ratified law that restricts the work of NGOs in the country, Anadolu Agency reported, quoting an official statement released by the EU. There are currently more than 47,000 NGOs, some foreign-funded, which operate across Egypt.
The EU warned of the “negative impact” of the law on joint cooperation with the Egyptian government, especially in relation to “European aid to Egypt under the various European cooperation agreements with Cairo,” the majority of which depend on the NGOs as a significant implementing partner.
According to the statement the bill would strictly control the activities of the NGOs in developmental and social work and would make it difficult for charities to deliver services. It also bans domestic and foreign groups from taking part in funding activities or anything that can be said to “harm national security, public order, public morals or public health”.
The bloc called on Egyptian authorities to abide by all the guarantees stipulated in the Egyptian Constitution including international standards of freedom of expression and the formation of NGOs. They have also demanded Egypt implement the new law without imposing restrictions on civil society organisations’ developmental work and that they respect human rights.
The Egyptian government is yet to respond to the EU’s accusations.
Al-Sisi’s 87-article law imposes fines of more than $55,000 for those who assist or participate in foreign-managed civil society activities in Egypt without a permit, and up to five years of imprisonment for those who do not comply. Civil society organisations will be also subject to security intervention under the law.
The law has been condemned by several local and international human rights groups and activists. Human Rights Watch recently said in a statement that “it would be a farce to say that Egypt allows ‘non-governmental’ organisations since all would be subject to the security agencies’ control”.
The law’s enactment comes at a time of huge censorship in the press and the recent implementation of the state of emergency.
Human rights advocates have said that the bill would eradicate civil society and that it is part of a wider government crackdown on organisations that have been accused of threatening the country’s national security following the 2011 uprising that toppled Hosni Mubarak’s 30-year-rule.
Over the past few months, various centres were forcibly shut down by authorities without legal justification. Last February the El Nadeem Centre – a prominent NGO that assists victims of violence and torture – was shut by Egyptian authorities, who did not cite a specific violation. Many rights activists face travel bans implemented by the government.