An international rights group has warned of a new Egyptian bill to regulate civil society, saying that the proposed law amounts to a “death warrant” for relevant organisations.
In a strongly-worded statement, London-based Amnesty International urged President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi on Friday not to sign the proposed law, calling it “draconian” and the “most repressive” for the authority it gives the government over civil society work.
The call comes days after the parliament, packed with Sisi supporters, voted in favour of the law. It was debated for only two days, and comes into immediate effect once ratified by Sisi.
Among the new law’s provisions, groups carrying out field research and surveys without permission could be punished by up to five years in prison.
Foreign NGOs will also have to pay up to 300,000 Egyptian pounds in order to have a presence in Egypt and apply for a permit which they will have to renew when it expires.
The draft bill stipulates the creation of a “national authority” comprising representatives of the security services, intelligence and the army, who will oversee foreign funds and the activities of foreign NGOs.
“This is my worst nightmare, when I see such draft bills,” said Mohamed Zaree, head of the Egypt programme at the Cairo Institute for Human Rights Studies.
“They are closing the door on all organisations or associations which would have liked to deal with human rights in the future,” he said.
Human rights groups have repeatedly accused the government of Sisi of violations, including forced disappearances, arbitrary arrests and illegal detentions.
Egyptian and foreign NGOs operating in the country are governed by a stiff law which allows the government to supervise their activities and finances.
In September a court froze the assets of five prominent human rights defenders and three NGOs, who had been under investigation for allegedly receiving foreign funds in a case dating from 2011.