On 31 March 2013, the Egyptian Organization for Human Rights (EOHR) submitted an official memorandum to Ahmed Fahmy, head of the Egyptian Shura Council. The memo included observations on the NGOs law prepared by the Egyptian government.
EOHR also aimed at providing the council with legal recommendations in order to have a law in line with the international human rights standards that guarantee freedom of association, assembly, expression, thought, and access to public information.
- Article 1/Chapter 1 mentions only humanitarian and developmental activities. It does not mention human rights defending, which is the most important role played by civil society.
- Article 11 necessitates obtaining official approval before conducting any projects, field research or questionnaires, which puts the civil society organizations’ activities under the control of the concerned bodies.
- Article 3 of the draft law mentioned many financial requirements that are major obstacles for those who intend to establish new civil society organizations. The funds of NGOs, local and international, are considered public funds.
- The founders of a new NGO cannot be less than 20 in number depriving smaller groups from establishing new NGOs.
- The draft law gives the concerned body the rights to refuse registration of a new civil society organization. As in the current law, the founders are allowed to file a lawsuit against that official decision.
- Article 20 mentions that the representatives of the concerned bodies have the right to visit the civil society organizations to review their records, narrative and financial reports.
- Article 42 of the draft law allows “imprisonment for a term of up to six months” and fines of up to £E 100,000 for a wide range of violations of the law.
- Article 57 legalizes Egyptian security interference in the civil society organizations’ affairs. The Coordination Board will be established to decide on the matters related to foreign finance and activities implemented by international civil society organizations in Egypt; this board will include security officials in addition to representatives of ministries of foreign relations, insurance and the Central Bank of Egypt.
EOHR proposed some principals to be taken into consideration while amending the currently used law no. 84, year 2002.
Freedom of establishing, registration and running NGOs
- New NGOs must be able to register by notifying the concerned bodies, they should not need permissions to do so, and restrictions must not be placed upon them to deter their establishment;
- Unconditional registration of new local and international civil society organizations must be permissable;
- NGOs must be allowed to handle all kinds of cultural, social, developmental, intellectual, professional and political activities that are not related to political parties’ affairs;
- The right of concerned bodies to review the narrative and financial documents of NGOs must be cancelled;
- An NGO’s general assembly is the decision maker and the concerned bodies should have nothing to do with its decisions.
- The concerned bodies should not have the right to dissolve NGOs or even freeze their activities;
- Imprisonment sentences should not be given to civil society organizations’ board members;
- Reconciliation committees must be reinstated and restructured.
- NGOs should have the freedom to receive financing from different sources as long as they notify the concerned bodies and provide them with information about the sources, the amount of funding received, and the projects to be implemented using that funding;
- The state must guarantee tax and fee exemptions for NGOs, and such exemptions must not then be used as a reason to intervene in the NGOs activities;
- NGOs must be allowed to receive funds and donations from local and international individuals or agencies;
- NGOs should be allowed to run profitable activities, but revenues must be spent on NGOs’ activities and never distributed amongst members.
Freedom of Assembly and Expression
- NGOs must be able to host and conduct meetings, whether at their headquarters or elsewhere, without being restricted by demonstration laws;
- NGOs must be allowed to issue publications, reports, statements, press releases and newsletters without prior permissions from the concerned bodies.
Joining international coalitions:
- NGOs should be allowed to establish coalitions and networks without prior permission, but should notify the concerned bodies;
- The right of NGOs to join the General Union of Associations must be acknowledged.
President of EOHR, Hafez Abu Seada confirmed that the bill currently being proposed by the Ministry of Social Affairs does not encourage the independance and freedom of civil society organizations, but rather imposes further restrictions on the activities of NGOs by prohibiting the conducting of field research and offering legal assistance to civilians.
Abu Seada added that this draft law would handcuff civil society organizations instead of providing them with an overseeing role of the country's performance in relation to the services it offers its people.