CAIRO: Egypt’s Ministry of Social Solidarity extended the registration deadline for civil society organizations and NGOs for another 45 days following an original deadline in September due to harsh criticism against the ministry over procedures taken over the position of NGOs.
National Council for Human Rights (NCHR) Chairman Mohamed Fayeq said in a statement Sunday the Minister of Social Solidarity Ghada Wali had agreed to extend the deadline.
On July 18, Wali warned that the ministry would cancel the activities of bodies working in civil work within 45 days, said a press statement issued Thursday by the Cairo Institute for Human Rights (CIHR), which expressed its deep concern over the ministry’s “negative direction” that it said was against the Constitution and the interests of NGOs.
According to current Law 84 of 2002—which several civil society organizations have called for amendments to—all NGOs must register within a year after the law comes into force or the entity will be considered dissolved.
The law states that any civil society entity must receive permission from the Ministry of Social solidarity, which contradicts international standards of freedom of expression, as the NGO work is voluntary, Mohamed Zaree, Egypt Program Manager at the Cairo Institute for Human Rights (CIHR), told The Cairo Post Sunday.
Zaree said forcing NGOs to register “threatens public order and public principles.”
He added that even after registration, an NGO could face problems from the ministry, as the government could object to the organization’s structure and cancel its administrative decisions. Zaree said article 17 of Law 84 stipulates that NGOs must have approval for raising funds, and because of this, the ministry could delay financing for groups for months.
Amnesty International has condemned Law 84 and the “compulsory requirement to register.” The organization said in a statement Sunday that all NGOs could face closure and be prosecuted if they failed to register.
“The looming deadline sounds very much like a death sentence for independent Egyptian NGOs. The authorities’ ultimatum is not about enabling NGOs to operate and instead paves the way for the closure of those that are critical of the government,” said Hassiba Hadj Sahraoui, the organization’s deputy director for the Middle East and North Africa.
The organization called on all Egyptian authorities to drop such “repressive” laws, as if they are violated, penalties could include prison terms of up to three years and a fine of not less than 100,000 EGP ($14,000).
Human Rights Watch’s Middle East and North Africa director Sarah Leah Whitson commented Sunday on the law saying, “The Sisi government’s demand for all organizations to register under the discredited 2002 law is nothing but an order for them to surrender their independence.”
Twenty-nine human rights organizations issued a joint statement on July 9 criticizing the law draft which the ministry applied on the NGOs in July 2014.
Additional reported by Aya Samir