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UN rights chief urges Egypt to protect civil society groups in new law

UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillay [official profile] urged [press release] the Egyptian government on Wednesday to ensure that a draft law on civil society organizations does not give authorities the ability to crack down on such groups. Pillay expressed concern that if the law places significant constraints on civil society organizations, it would undermine the cause of the 2011 Egyptian Revolution [JURIST backgrounder] at a crucial moment for the country. Pillay also noted that the new constitution is concentrating power in the executive branch at the expense of the judiciary and that this concentration of power "risks undermining the independence of the judiciary. Pillay stated that her office will continue to follow the development of the proposed law, which has gone through a number of drafts.

Egypt has experienced continued unrest and instability since the 2011 revolution. Last month a number of Egyptian opposition groups filed a lawsuit [JURIST report] demanding public debate of the country's budget. Earlier in April Egypt's upper house of parliament, the Shura Council, approved [JURIST report] new election procedures to elect the House of Representatives. The process has been delayed, however, by Egypt's Supreme Administrative Court referring [JURIST report] the newly passed law to the Supreme Constitutional Court (SCC) for review. The court's decision was said to be based on technical grounds [Reuters report], namely that the Shura Council failed to return the amended electoral to the SCC for final review before passing it [JURIST report]. The law was amended in five key areas as demanded by the high court [JURIST report]. in March, the SCC dismissed complaints [JURIST report] against the assembly responsible for drafting the country's new constitution.

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