Freedom House: Draft NGO law more restrictive than previous one

Freedom House has expressed its concern over the Shura Council’s draft NGO law, saying it is more restrictive than the 2002 law issued under former President Hosni Mubarak.

In a report on Tuesday, the US-based human rights organization said the law contradicts the government’s stated commitment to democratic reforms, calling on it to replace the current draft with one that promotes freedom of association.

“The draft would, in effect, nationalize civil society organizations by defining their funds as public money, create a new interagency committee with the authority to approve or veto foreign funding for local NGOs, raise registration costs for NGOs to prohibitive levels, impose stifling oversight restrictions and bring operations of ‘civil organizations’ and law firms engaged in human rights and democracy work under the same legal regime as other NGOs,” the group said.

“The law would also prohibit foreign organizations that receive any government funding from operating in Egypt, driving most if not all foreign NGOs out of the country,” it added.

The Ministry of Insurance and Social Affairs finalized the draft law’s amendments in January, which were criticized by activists and civil society organizations. The amendments will be reviewed by the next House of Representatives, once it is elected.

“Growing pressure on civil society since the passage of [Mubarak’s law] have already left many groups working in fear and with very limited resources,” said David J.Kramer, the organization’s head. “New restrictions will only further cripple what has been a thriving Egyptian civil society.”

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