UN Human Rights Experts Urge Egyptian Shura Council to Reject Restrictive Draft NGO Bill

28 March 2013

A group of United Nations human rights experts have urged the Egyptian Shura Council not to adopt a draft law that would violate international standards governing the right to freedom of association. In a recent press statement, the experts expressed concern over the draft law’s failure to comply with international standards:

“It is highly regrettable that a government that was formed as a response to peaceful social activism can place such restrictions on people’s right to freedom of association….We are seriously concerned that numerous provisions contained in the draft law may be used to hamper the legitimate work of civil society organisations, particularly those advocating human rights”

The experts cited a number of shortcomings in the draft law, particularly the following provisions:

  • The draft law bans associations from obtaining funds from abroad without prior permission.
  • The draft law limits the activities that can be carried out by a foreign non-governmental organization to those consistent with the needs of Egyptian society, in accordance with the priorities of development plans, and taking into account the public order and morals.
  • The draft law prohibits the registration of foreign non-governmental organizations that receive ‘governmental funds directly or indirectly’ and carry out activities that promote ‘views or policies of a political party in its country of origin or violate national sovereignty.’

Egypt, along with a number of other states, adopted a recent Human Right Council resolution protecting human rights defenders. Welcoming Egypt’s endorsement of the resolution, the UN experts urged the Egyptian government comply with their international obligations when developing their national legislation governing civil society organizations, including human rights defenders.

The group of independent UN experts includes Maina Kiai, Special Rapporteur on the Rights to Freedom of Peaceful Assembly and of Association, Margaret Sekaggya, Special Rapporteur on Human Rights Defenders, and Frank La Rue, Special Rapporteur on the promotion and protection of the right to freedom of opinion and expression.