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Revived draft law would give state security control over civil society

(ANHRI/IFEX) - 18 January 2012 - Human rights organizations said today that prominent figures of Mubarak's regime from the dissolved National Democratic Party NDP are dragging the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces (SCAF) into further confrontations with people and civil democratic powers in Egypt.

Most recently, Faiza Abol Naga, minister of International Cooperation, Ali el-Meselhy, former Minister of Social Solidarity, and Abdel Aziz Hegazy, the former Prime Minister, have proposed a revival of a draft law for civil associations. The draft law itself is more despotic than the one currently in place, giving more power to the state security service, the National Security, over the actions of civil society.

Following a meeting held last week between Alganzoury, Prime Minister assigned by the SCAF; Faiza Abol Naga, the Minister of International Cooperation; and Ali el-Meselhy, former Minister of Social Solidarity, Counselor Mohamed Eldemerdash, the Legal Adviser to the Ministry of Insurance and Social Affairs and State Council Undersecretary, announced that a new draft law for civil associations, the same one submitted two years ago by Meselhy, the Social Solidarity Minister in the dissolved NDP government at the time, is under consideration.

The law will give the police more control over civil institutions. It was originally discarded due to its widespread rejection by the public.

The undersigned human rights organizations state: "We will not allow the Ministry of Solidarity or the Security Service to take over the course of civil action. The judiciary is the sole authority that has the powers to supervise and make decisions regarding the actions of civil organisations. The SCAF should know that supporting or overlooking such figures from the previous regime will only further exacerbate the conflict between the Council and the popular democratic powers."

The draft law allows administrative and security bodies to monitor, reject or object to an association's activities; annul the association's decisions, and also grants them the power to dissolve an association or shut it down, in addition to its limiting the fields for civil society action to certain areas. It reminds one of Abol Naga's vision of civil society presented in a press conference she held a few weeks ago with the Minister of Justice. Mrs. Abol Naga would like to see a civil society that works only in the fields of news and services. Ironically enough, the law obliges civil associations, founded mainly on volunteering work, to forcibly join the General Union for Civil Associations, which remains under the control of the former regime's figures.

The undersigned human rights organizations added, "We will not accept anything but a democratic law that respects freedom of civil action, establishes rules of supervision and transparency, and places the judiciary as the only power to settle disputes between any administrative body and civil society organizations. We will continue to bring forward democratic values, despite the attempts by the former regime's figures to obstruct our work through the SCAF."

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