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EOHR under threat of dissolution

(EOHR/IFEX) - The Egyptian Organization for Human Rights (EOHR) expresses its deepest concern regarding a letter received from the Ministry of Social Solidarity warning EOHR of the possibility of applying Article 42 of the NGOs Law 84/2002, which is concerned with dismantling the organization.

On 27 April 2009, EOHR received a letter signed by the Ministry of Social Solidarity, stating that EOHR received foreign funding without authorization.

The reason behind this letter was that EOHR, with the cooperation of the Center of Media Freedom in the Middle East and North Africa in Morocco, held a regional conference on the right to access information entitled "Information is a right for all" on 27 and 28 January 2009, with the participation of many public figures who are interested in freedom of opinion and expression in general, and the free flow of information in particular. A group of university professors, a number of members of the People's Assembly and the Shura Consultative Council, representatives of political parties and civil society activists from Egypt and other Arab countries also participated. On 31 July 2008, EOHR presented a notification to the competent authority informing them of the upcoming conference and of its request to receive funds from the Center of Media Freedom in the Middle East and North Africa in Morocco to cover the expenses of the participants coming from Arab countries and hotel reservations. EOHR did not receive a reply to the letter for the period specified and, according to the law, failing to receive a response from the authorities within a specific time (60 days) implicates an initial approval.

EOHR is concerned that this case might escalate to what happened in a similar case with the Association for Human Rights and Legal Aid (AHRLA) which also received a dissolution decree by the Ministry of Social Solidarity.

The legislation reportedly provides the Executive authority with a number of political controls over the work of NGOs, including restricting their access to foreign funding, restricting their ability to join international associations and wide powers of dissolution.

The Ministry's letter comes after the release of EOHR's 2008 annual report, and its two qualitative reports on torture and freedom of expression.

EOHR calls upon Egyptian, Arab and international NGOs to stand in solidarity against this kind of notorious legislation which paralyzes the work of NGOs in Egypt. It is worth mentioning that EOHR launched its campaign for NGO rights and freedoms in its efforts to amend Law 84/2002 to bring it into conformity with international human rights standards. The campaign began its work in March 2008, and includes northern and southern governorates to discuss the concept of civil work and the role of NGOs in supporting the community as a partner in development. It also examines the constraints and challenges which face NGOs and how to overcome them, and hopes to replace Law 84/2002.

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