03 June, 2017
A new law signed by Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi, imposing unprecedentedly harsh restrictions on NGOs, could be a death sentence for human rights groups in the country, Amnesty International said today.
However, the President signed the law without addressing any of the concerns raised by Egyptian or worldwide human rights organizations.
That sentiment was echoed by Senator Marco Rubio, a member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, who said the law would have a "terrible impact" on Egypt's ability to make reforms and would have implications for U.S. -Egypt relations. The measure gives them a year to comply or face court action.
"Congress should strengthen democratic benchmarks and human rights conditions on US assistance for Egypt", they said in a statement.
Rights lawyer Gamal Eid slammed the text of the new bill, which the United Nations and New York-based Human Rights Watch have also criticized.
"The state is operating with no strategy or vision", Zaree said.
Numerous groups are charities that provide food, clothing, health care, and education to the poor. Failure to inform authorities could result in jail terms of up to five years and fines of up to 1 million pounds ($55,000).
It obliges groups to stick to the "state's development plan", severely restricting the work they can do in areas the government does not consider a priority.
The law, which el-Sissi signed on Monday, gives security agencies extensive power over the financing and activities of NGOs.
The law also bans domestic and foreign groups from engaging in political activities or anything that harms national security, public order, public morals or public health - a means, say rights groups, to stifle dissent.
Under the law, foreign non-governmental groups will have to pay up to 16,500 dollars to start working in Egypt and renew their permit on a regular basis. On 23 May, Egyptian authorities arrested the former presidential candidate Khaled Ali on charges of committing acts that violate public decency.