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Egyptian parliament approves more NGO restrictions

Old newspapers are on sale at Cairo's historic al-Azbakeya book market at downtown in Cairo on 16 January, 2019 [MOHAMED EL-SHAHED/AFP/Getty Images]
Newspapers are on sale at a book market at in Cairo, Egypt on 16 January 2019 [MOHAMED EL-SHAHED/AFP/Getty Images]

The Egyptian parliament approved amendments to the controversial NGO law on Monday which place extra restrictions on the work of civil society groups, local and international media have reported. According to the parliamentary website, “The House of Representatives finally approved a number of important draft laws… including the bill regulating civil society’s work.”

President Abdel Fattah Al-Sisi said in November that the law, which includes harsh penalties and restrictions, needs to be more balanced. Nevertheless, the new law still prohibits foreign organisations from using their headquarters for “unauthorised activities”. NGOs are also prevented from transferring or receiving funds from people or entities, except those previously disclosed, without official approval.

The new amendments have eliminated the possible penalty to a prison sentence for officials deemed to be breaking the law. Instead, reported Reuters, fines between 200,000 and 1 million Egyptian pounds ($12,070-$60,350) will be imposed.

READ: Egypt launches portal to ‘correct’ understanding of human rights

Last week, ten Egyptian rights groups, including the Cairo Institute for Human Rights Studies, rejected the amendments because they are still too restrictive. “The majority of changes in the draft NGO law are deceptive and superficial,” the groups said. They urged the international community to intervene.

Amnesty International criticised the law: “Despite the Egyptian government’s claims to the contrary, a draft new NGO law passed by parliament yesterday [Monday] preserves the repressive essence of the law of 2017.” The organisation noted that this law is “currently in force and would help perpetuate the devastating crackdown on human rights defenders and independent civil society organisations.”

Amnesty called for Al-Sisi to reject it. “Al-Sisi should reject the draft law and order it to be amended to bring it into line with international human rights law and standards.”

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