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Egypt rights group criticizes proposed NGO restrictions

The Cairo Institute for Human Rights Studies (CIHRS) [advocacy website] on Wednesday denounced [press release] draft legislation restricting the financial autonomy of civic associations and non-governmental organizations (NGOs). The draft law gives government "security bodies" the power to monitor the finances of domestic NGOs by requiring that any funding be placed into government accounts for a 60 day approval process. In addition, all international NGOs working in Egypt would be required to qualify for government licenses, requiring consent to similar monitoring practices. The CIHRS decried the draft law as a "striking infringement" on the right to freedom of association, and as government suppression of the work of civil society groups:

[The draft law] codifies the repressive security practices used by the state against civil society into law. ... [T]hese practices are used to target human rights organizations in particular, as these groups are viewed as adversaries which must be eliminated due their work of exposing systematic violations to human rights. ... [The law] represents an extension of the same philosophy adopted ... in the era of former President Hosni Mubarak which sought to besiege civil society and human rights groups in particular. Indeed, this draft law resorts to even more extreme measures than those seen under the former president.
The CIHRS further contends that the law is grounded [AP report] in the Islamic regime's "hostility toward the objectives and gains" of the Egyptian Revolution [JURIST backgrounder] that toppled former president Hosni Mubarak [BBC profile; JURIST news archive]. The CIHRS rejects the law "in its entirety" and urges the government to "reassess its current strategy of circumscribing public freedoms."

Egypt has been plagued by continuing political turmoil since the beginning of its revolution. This week Egyptian President Mohammed Morsi swore to preserve the independence of the judicial system [JURIST report] despite protests by Islamist groups to remove thousands of judges. Last month, the country's Supreme Administrative Court referred [JURIST report] the newly passed electoral law to the Supreme Constitutional Court for review, thereby delaying parliamentary elections originally set to begin on April 22. In September the Egyptian Ministry of Justice brought charges [JURIST report] against former culture minister Farouq Hosni for corruption, who has been accused of illegally obtaining 27 million Egyptian pounds (USD $4.5 million) during his term as culture minister under the ousted president Mubarak.

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