Egypt president approves contentious NGO law
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Egypt president approves contentious NGO law

Condemned by UN, new restrictions require a 'national authority' to oversee the foreign funding of non-governmental organizations

Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sissi delivers a speech during a meeting with Pope Francis in the capital Cairo on April 28, 2017 (AFP/Andreas Solaro)
Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sissi delivers a speech during a meeting with Pope Francis in the capital Cairo on April 28, 2017 (AFP/Andreas Solaro)

CAIRO, Egypt — Egypt’s president has signed into law a contentious new bill to regulate non-governmental organizations, the official gazette said on Monday, triggering fears of an intensified crackdown on civil society.

Authorities have led a brutal crackdown on all forms of opposition, at times targeting human rights organizations directly, since then-army chief Abdel-Fattah el-Sissi overthrew Islamist president Mohamed Morsi in 2013.

Sissi approved the law on May 24 after parliament approved it in November last year, the gazette said.

Rights lawyer Gamal Eid slammed the text of the new bill, which the United Nations and New York-based Human Rights Watch have also criticized.

An Egyptian girl is seen outside the Banati Foundation shelter, a civil society organisation that works with street children, in the capital Cairo on February 16, 2017. (AFP/MOHAMED EL-SHAHED)
An Egyptian girl is seen outside the Banati Foundation shelter, a civil society organization that works with street children, in the capital Cairo on February 16, 2017. (AFP/MOHAMED EL-SHAHED)

“The law eliminates civil society in Egypt, whether human rights or development organizations,” Eid said.

Under the law, foreign non-governmental groups will have to pay up to 300,000 pounds ($16,500, 14,800 euros) to start working in Egypt and renew their permit on a regular basis, the lawyer said.

No organization can carry out or publish the results of a study or survey without prior permission from the state.

Those who violate the law could receive up to five years in jail and fines of up to one million Egyptian pounds (more than $55,000).

It requires for a “national authority” including army and intelligence representatives to oversee the foreign funding of Egyptian non-governmental organizations and the activities of foreign non-governmental organizations.

Since the 2011 uprising that toppled longtime president Hosni Mubarak, government and security officials have accused civil society of wanting to destabilize the country.

Several human rights defenders have been forbidden to travel outside Egypt and have seen their assets frozen as part of an inquiry into foreign funding to civil society groups started in 2011.

In March last year, the authorities said around 47,000 Egyptian non-governmental groups and more than 100 foreign ones were “working freely” in the country.

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