Thursday, July 24, 2014

EGYPT: 23 Rights Organizations Demand that the Government Stop Fighting Civil Society and Review Its Policy towards NGOs



Bahey eddin Hassan, the director of the Cairo Institute for Human Rights Studies (CIHRS), submitted a memo signed by 23 Egyptian human rights organizations to Prime Minister Ibrahim Mahlab this morning, Thursday, 24 July 2014. The memo stated the position of these organizations towards the repressive draft law on associations, which was presented by the Minister of Social Solidarity, and towards the escalating steps recently taken by the Ministry of Social Solidarity against civil society in general.

The meeting, held at the cabinet building, was held at the request of Bahey eddin Hassan following the sudden announcement by the Ministry of Social Solidarity of a new repressive draft law on associations. This bill would lead to the “nationalization” of civil society, transforming it into a quasi-governmental sector and subjecting it to unrestricted prerogatives of the security apparatus. The bill further represents a flagrant violation of the constitution. Today’s meeting came in light of a notice issued by the Ministry of Social Solidarity and published in the Ahram newspaper on page 22 of the 18 July 2014 issue, warning what it calls the “entities” carrying out civil society work that they will be dissolved within 45 days. The organizations which signed onto the memo consider this to be a blatant attack on other long-establish legal systems which regulate companies in the fields of law and other activities related to development, academia, and culture. Such a step could severely undermine the Egyptian legal framework and destroy any remaining confidence in the legal and judicial systems. Furthermore, it may very well lead to the closure of a large number of human rights organizations and the imprisonment of those who work in them.

The Prime Minister considered this meeting to be a preliminary meeting, to be followed by a larger meeting with human rights organizations.

The human rights organizations which signed onto the memo called on the government to take a number of serious, immediate measures to put a stop to the ongoing deterioration of the state of human rights in Egypt and to provide a positive indication about the sincerity of its intentions to establish a state based on the rule of law and respect for the constitution. These measures include that the Ministry of Social Solidarity return to the associations bill which was drafted by a committee formed by the former Minister of Social Solidarity, Dr. Ahmed Bora’I, at the end of 2013, and which was then presented by the Egyptian government to the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights in Geneva, such that this bill might be the basis for a societal debate on the law with the aim of improving it to become more consistent with international standards. These steps were taken in preparation for the bill to be presented to the new parliament once elections were held. The organizations further emphasized the importance of requesting technical consultations with the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights when drafting the associations law, in order to guarantee that the law complies with Egypt’s international commitments under Article 22 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, to which Egypt is party. The organizations also demanded that the government retract the notice issued by the Ministry of Social Solidarity in the Ahram newspaper, as previously described.

It should be noted that during the Universal Periodic Review of the state of human rights in the country in 2010, Egypt committed itself before the United Nations to improve the environment in which NGOs work and to amend the infamous associations law no. 84/2002 to bring it into compliance with international standards. However, the Egyptian government until now has not fulfilled these commitments; rather, it has raided a number of Egyptian and international organizations and referred some of those working with them to court, imprisoning some of these workers as well. At the same time, preparations are being taken for the evaluation of Egypt’s human rights record during its second Universal Periodic Review before the United Nations, set to take place in October and November of this year.

To review the memo submitted to the Prime Minister: Here