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Egypt approves draconian NGO law targeting civil society

Tens of thousands have been jailed in Egypt since Sisi came to power. [Getty]

Date of publication: 30 May, 2017

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Egypt's President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi passed a contentious new law on Monday to regulate the work of NGOs, triggering fears of an unprecedented crackdown on dissent within civil society.
Egypt's President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi passed a contentious new law on Monday to regulate the work of NGOs, triggering fears of an unprecedented crackdown on dissent within civil society.

The bill was passed last November by Egypt's parliament and ratified by Sisi on May 24. The new law will restrict NGO activity to developmental and social work and introduce five-year jail terms for non-compliance and fines of up to one million Egyptian pounds ($55,000).

Foreign NGOs will have to pay $16,500 to start working in Egypt under the new measures and will have to renew their permits on a regular basis.

"The law eliminates civil society in Egypt, whether human rights or development organisations," rights lawyer Gamal Eid said.

No organisation will be permitted to carry out or publish surveys or studies without prior permission from the state.

A "national authority" including army and intelligence representative will also oversee all foreign funding to Egyptian NGOs and monitor the activities of international organizations.

Egypt program director at the Cairo Institute for Human Rights Studies told Reuters that the new law was the "worst in history" and would effectively ban NGOs from carrying out their work

"The state is operating with no strategy or vision," Zaree said.

His organization would be one of those affected and he is already banned from traveling abroad after being charged with receiving funds from "foreign entities to harm national security."

The new draconian measures will affect some 47,000 Egyptian NGOs.

Since the 2011 uprising that toppled long-time president Hosni Mubarak, government and security officials have accused civil society of wanting to destabilise the country.

Egyptian authorities have led a brutal crackdown on all forms of opposition, at times targeting human rights organisations directly, since then army chief Abdel Fattah al-Sisi overthrew democratically-elected Islamist president Mohamed Morsi in 2013.

Between 40,000 and 60,000 political prisoners have been jailed in Egypt since Abdel Fattah al-Sisi came to power in a military coup.

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