On Tuesday, Egypt's parliament passed a new law that will effectively kill or turn NGOs and right groups into "government puppets."
Many human rights organisations in Egypt are extremely troubled with the recent news that Egypt’s parliament has approved a new law regulating non-governmental organisations, giving security agencies extraordinary power over the financing of NGOs and rights groups.
On Tuesday, Egypt’s parliament passed a law that many rights groups are calling the most repressive ever levelled on civil society, which will effectively shut down a variety of much-needed rights groups. Supporters of the bill believe that the drastic law is a necessary security measure to protect the nation. However, those opposing the law believe its true purpose is to widen the crackdown on dissent towards President Sisi and the government.
The new law states that those who violate administrative rules governing NGOs and rights groups could face up to five years in prison and may be fined up to 1 million EGP. To remain compliant with the law, these groups must now receive permission from the state to accept donations over 10,000 EGP, relocate their headquarters, and disclose research or surveys being conducted.
Oversight responsibility will be distributed over several government and security agencies. That means a rights group fighting for freedom of speech or exposing police abuses will now have to seek permission from the same security apparatuses they often condemn. Although the law is supposed to provide security, it is expected to affect thousands of NGOs that deal with everything from health to development issues troubling local communities.
Another issue is the vagueness of the law, which makes it illegal to practise “activities that cause disruption of nation unity, security, public order and public morals.” Immediately after the law was approved by parliament, rights groups from all around the world condemned the decision. The United Nations believes that this will turn local NGOs into “government puppets,” while Amnesty International describes the law as a “death warrant” for rights groups.
Talking with the Associated Press, Egyptian lawmaker Haitham el-Hariri stated that "Whoever opposed the law was automatically accused of working against the state's national security." This intimidation tactic seemed to work as the law was easily passed in parliament. According to el-Hariri, "The law is disastrous," adding that, "I told the head of the parliament: you are facing a historic responsibility and if you let this law pass, Egypt's reputation will be badly damaged."
As it stands, the law still needs to be ratified by President Sisi before becoming official. We will update this story once the president has made a final decision on the matter.