UN rights chief: new Egypt law restricts human rights

UN rights chief: new Egypt law restricts human rights

[JURIST] UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein [official profile] said [press briefing] Thursday that Egypt’s new NGO law [JURIST report] will further restrict human rights advocacy. Law 70, which was passed on May 24, 2017, requires NGO’s to be approved by a government agency, for civil society groups to report all information on their funding and activities to the authorities, and to be in compliance with the government’s developmental plans. NGO noncompliance with the new measures may lead to closure of the organization for one year, criminal prosecution, five years in prison, and a fine of up to 1 million EGP (around USD 55,000). Zeid stated:

The new legislation places such tight restrictions on civil society that it effectively hands administration of NGOs to the Government. … The crucial function of these NGOs—to hold the State accountable for its human rights obligations—has been severely hampered already through asset freezes, travel bans, smear campaigns and prosecutions. This new law further tightens the noose.

According to Zeid, the new law breaches Egypt’s human rights obligations under the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights [text, PDF] and the recommendations Egypt committed to under its second Universal Periodic Review before the UN Human Rights Council in May 2015.

Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi [BBC backgrounder] signed [Mada Masr report] the controversial NGO law on Monday. The legislation will create a new government agency, the National Authority for the Regulation of Non-Governmental Foreign Organizations, which will monitor all organizations receiving foreign aid to ensure that the funds are being spent in an approved manner. Parliamentarian Haitham al-Hariry, a member of the 25-30 Coalition in opposition to the law, told local media that al-Sisi’s decision to approve the bill was surprising to many MPs and that the legislation will harm Egypt’s international public image. The law has been widely condemned [Mada Masr report] by international NGO groups and members of the US Congress. The bill was approved [JURIST report] by the Egyptian legislature on November 14, where it also received heavy criticism from human rights groups. Egypt has in general been under fire lately for violating human rights and trying to silence protests. In September UN Special Rapporteur on freedom of peaceful assembly and of association Maina Kiai, warned [JURIST report] that the Egyptian government “seems to be systematically attacking civil society in an effort to silence its voice.” In June an Egyptian court froze [JURIST report] the assets of five human rights activists and three NGOs for allegedly accepting unauthorized funds from foreign countries.