GENEVA – The UN Special Rapporteur on freedom of peaceful assembly and of association, Maina Kiai, warned today about the growing restrictions imposed on civil society in Egypt and the targeting of human rights defenders and human rights organizations.
On 17 September 2016, the Cairo Criminal Court froze the assets of five prominent human rights defenders and three NGOs named in “Case 173 on foreign funding”. The order places the frozen assets under government custodianship, meaning that the organizations and individuals can no longer make independent decisions about the confiscated money.
“These new developments intervene in a context of a continuing crackdown on human rights defenders and civil society organisations in Egypt since the reopening of the 2011 NGO case, known as the ‘ 173 foreign funding case’, in which a number of human rights defenders and heads of civil society organizations are being investigated,” said Mr. Kiai.
“The Government seems to be systematically attacking civil society in an effort to silence its voice,” the human rights expert added.
On 8 September, the Egyptian Cabinet approved a new draft NGO law retaining the restrictive provisions in the current NGO law (No. 84/2002).
“The draft law also limits NGO work to ‘development and social objectives’, and imposes a high level of minimum capital required to set up an NGO. Other new elements introduced by the draft law include the establishment of a specific tax for foreign funding, the banning of activists who have received a prison sentence for forming their own NGOs, and requiring the NGOs to conduct work that meet social needs,” the Special Rapporteur highlighted.
“I am concerned about the draft NGO bill which would aggravate already constraining legislative framework and raise further questions about compatibility of the Egyptian legislation with its international human rights obligations,” he added.
“I recall that the Government of Egypt has accepted a number of recommendations under the second UPR cycle of Egypt in 2014 to promote and protect the right to freedom of association, as well as to adopt a new NGO law that is compliant with international human rights*,” Mr.Kiai stressed.
“I call on the Government of Egypt to halt the ongoing harassment of human rights defenders and organizations and urge the Government to ensure the compliance of the NGO draft law with international law standards, following a transparent consultation process with civil society organizations,” the expert concluded.
* Including recommendations 166.210, 166.220, 166.221, 166.234, 166.236, 166.239, 166.240, 166.241, 166.244, 166.245, 166.246 and 166.248 (see A/HRC/28/16/Add.1).
The full press release is available in English via OHCHR.