CAIRO: Minister of Social Solidarity Ghada Waly said Sunday that she will not change her position on a controversial ministry-backed NGO Law that requires all NGOS in Egypt to register with the ministry and give it control over their operations, boards and management, Youm7 reported.
“We are not a vindictive government, but we are putting the law above everything,” she said.
Waly’s comments came during a press conference at the ministry. She defended her position on the law by saying it was necessary for the government to regulate and know who was funding the country’s NGOs and charities. She said the alternative was like “working in the dark.”
Waly added that the NGO Law was already written and was delivered to the Cabinet last Thursday.
“It will now be sent to all related ministers and whoever is keen to know and participate in the social discussion about it,” she said. “We are making sure that the final draft of the issued law will be compatible with the Constitution and the NGOs’ demands.”
However, NGOs have trashed the law, viewing it as an attack on their independence.
The Cairo Institute for Human Rights Studies (CIHRS) issued an open letter to President Abdel Fatah al-Sisi last August expressing their deep concern over the Ministry of Social Solidarity’s “negative direction” that it said were against the Constitution and the interests of NGOs.
The statement said, “NGOs worked with the ministry while it was headed by previous Minister Ahmed Boraie for about six months in order to pass a new consensual law concerning NGOs, but new Minister Ghada Waly disregarded the efforts of the former minister and civil society and passed another law on June 26, aiming to nationalize 40,000 organizations and turn them into semi-governmental bodies.”
Earlier, another condemning statement was issued by 23 NGOs and delivered to Prime Minister Ibrahim Mahlab on July 24. It described Waly’s law as “repressive,” and “a flagrant violation of the Constitution.”
On Jul. 18, Waly issued a warning to NGOs, giving them 45 days to finish their papers and rearrange their legal situation. Later, under NGO pressure, Waly extended the deadline to November.
Criticism of the NGO Law has not been held to just local voices.
Human Rights Watch issued a statement Sept. 2 condemning the law, and compared it to the “restrictive” article 84 that was issued in 2002 during the reign of autocratic President Hosni Mubarak.
HRW said the NGO Law “empowers the government to shut down any group virtually at will, freeze its assets, confiscate its property, reject nominees to its governing board, block its funding or deny requests to affiliate with international organizations.”
“Egyptian authorities are using the law to orchestrate a witch hunt against nongovernmental organizations and put them under their thumb,” said Hassiba Hadj Sahraoui, Middle East and North Africa Program deputy director at Amnesty International. “The government must withdraw the requirement for compulsory registration of nongovernmental organizations under the current law, which is contrary to international human rights standards.”