Non-governmental organization workers on trial - REUTERS
CAIRO, Aug 31 (Aswat Masriya) – Minister of Social Solidarity Ghada Wali agreed with the National Council for Human Rights (NCHR) on Sunday to postpone a deadline for non-governmental organisations' registration for 45 days.
George Ishaq, member of the state-affiliated NCHR, told Aswat Masriya the council will hold a discussion between Wali and NGOs that need to be registered to further understand the registration process.
The ministry of social solidarity urged on July 18 all domestic and international NGOs operating within Egypt to register under Law 84/2002, which governs the activities of NGOs, before September 2. The law has widely been condemned by civil society organisations for granting the government control over NGOs.
Forty-five international and domestic human rights groups condemned the initial deadline in a joint statement on Saturday.
"The [President Abdel Fattah] al-Sisi government’s demand for all organisations to register under the discredited 2002 law is nothing but an order for them to surrender their independence," said Sarah Leah Whitson, Middle East and North Africa director at Human Rights Watch. "There’s no way that an organisation can register under Law 84 and still be considered ‘independent’ from the government."
Some civil society organisations operating in Egypt are registered as law firms or nonprofit companies to escape registration under the law in question.
The law gives the government the power to shut down NGOs, freeze their assets, confiscate their property, block their funding or deny their requests to be affiliated with international organisations. Under this law, independent groups which practice unauthorised activities can receive a penalty of up to one year in prison.
Civil society organisations have long called for the repeal of this law and its replacement with a less restrictive legislation.
On June 26, the social solidarity ministry presented a new draft legislation for the operation of civil society organisations. The legislation received condemnation from domestic civil society organisations. International watchdog Human Rights Watch warned that if it passes, the legislation would "throttle" civil society organisations and "rob them of their independence."
The draft gives the authorities sweeping powers over the activities of civil society organisations and restricts the activities of international organisations operating within Egypt. It also imposes several restrictions on organisations seeking foreign funding.
Several civil society organisations in Egypt depend on foreign funding due to the scarcity of their resources. The current civil society law obliges organisations to seek the government’s permission before raising any funds to support them.
The NCHR criticised the draft civil society law and urged the government not to issue it until parliament is elected.