On October 25, 2021, President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi ended the four-year state of emergency in Egypt. Under a state of emergency, which President el-Sisi declared in 2017 and subsequently renewed every three months, the government could indefinitely detain civilians, try civilians in military courts, restrict public demonstrations, and censor media outlets. Nonetheless, activists say that the end of formal emergency status will have limited practical impact, as the government has enacted numerous repressive laws that have effectively entrenched the elements of an emergency state into ordinary law.
The lifting of the state of emergency comes weeks after President el-Sisi launched Egypt’s new “National Strategy for Human Rights.” During the launch of the strategy, the President praised the role of civil society in protecting human rights and emphasized the importance of partnership between civil society and the state. He also called for the creation of a new administrative apparatus to promote human rights and address complaints of rights violations. The strategy includes commitments to political, cultural and civil rights; rights for women, children and people with disabilities; as well as education and capacity building. Activists and analysts remain skeptical of the strategy, given Egypt’s dismal human rights record and ongoing repression of civil society.
After mass protests across Egypt led to President Hosni Mubarak’s removal from power in 2011, the country underwent several years of tumult, with numerous annulled elections, changes in governing authority, and uncertainty in the legal framework. Under the auspices of an interim government installed by the military in the summer of 2013, a new Egyptian constitution was finalized and approved by referendum in January 2014. Abdel Fattah el-Sisi was elected president in May 2014, and a new parliament was elected in December 2015.
From 2002 until 2017, civil society in Egypt was governed by the provisions of the Law on Associations and Community Foundations (Law 84 of 2002) (English) (Arabic) and the Implementing Regulation for Law 84 of 2002 (Ministry of Social Affairs [Now Ministry of Social Solidarity] Decree 178 of 2002). Despite the highly restrictive nature of these laws, the civil society sector expanded during this time and was relatively large and vibrant when the 2011 Revolution began. In effect, the CSO legal framework in Egypt prior to the Revolution did not serve to ban civil society outright but rather gave enormous discretionary powers to the Ministry of Social Solidarity and other government agencies. In practice, this authority was brought to bear against certain organizations and individuals that crossed the government’s ‘red lines’ in pushing for social reform and political liberalization.
In the years following the revolution, however, the government engaged in a more overt and sweeping crackdown on civil society. A criminal case launched in 2011, focused on Egypt-based international organizations alleged to have received foreign funding without government permission, was reopened and expanded in 2016 to focus on Egyptian organizations. From 2016 to 2021, a number of Egypt’s most prominent civil society leaders were banned from travel in connection with the case, and several had their personal and organizational assets frozen under court order. Others were detained and interrogated.
The crackdown has included a range of new laws and regulations, as well, to constrain CSOs and individuals’ freedoms of association, assembly, and expression. Among the most severe: A new assembly law passed in 2013 effectively banned protests by requiring government authorization for groups of ten or more people to assemble (under 2017 amendments to the law, the judiciary—rather than the Interior Ministry—provides ultimate authorization or refusal). In 2014, the government amended the Penal Code to heighten severe penalties that may be applied to organizations that receive foreign funding with the intent to harm the “national interest,” “national sovereignty,” or “public peace.” Restrictive, overbroad counterterrorism legislation was adopted in 2015, with a sweeping definition of “terrorist entities” broad enough to encompass CSOs carrying out legitimate, peaceful advocacy activities. And in 2018, Egypt enacted a cybercrimes law that authorizes the state to block websites deemed to threaten to national security, effectively sanctioning the government’s ongoing practice of blocking websites—including those of CSOs and independent news platforms.
In 2017, the government also approved a draconian new law to govern CSOs, replacing Law 84 of 2002. Domestic and international CSOs, governments, and UN entities roundly condemned the restrictive new law, Law 70 on Associations and Other Foundations Working in the Field of Civil Work, which created egregious constraints on CSOs’ formation, funding, activities, contact with international entities, and internal governance, and imposed severe criminal penalties on CSOs for violations. Despite its ratification, however, the law was never fully enforced—the government never issued implementing regulations to guide its application—and in November of 2018, President el-Sisi publicly indicated that he supported amendment of the law.
Following those remarks, a government committee initially formed to develop amendments to Law 70, drafted what the government put forth as a “new” law. Provisions of the draft law were withheld from the public until it was submitted to Parliament, which approved the law within a week. President el-Sisi ratified the law, Law 149 Regulating the Exercise of Civil Work (English)(Arabic), and it was published on August 19, 2019.
While Law 149 omits the individual prison sentences provided for in Law 70, it retains the overwhelming majority of restrictions present in that law. It preserves an overall regulatory approach to civil society characterized by excessive government control, including by imposing significant legal and administrative hurdles to organizations’ formation, activities, and access to domestic and foreign resources. Nor does Law 149—as the government has claimed—align with international standards for the protection of freedom of association. Law 149 perpetuates serious obstacles to freedom of association and will likely hinder rather than enable the realization of a vibrant, independent, and sustainable civil society sector that can support the development and democratization of Egypt.
|Organizational Forms||Associations and civil foundations|
|Registration Body||Ministry of Social Solidarity|
|Approximate Number||Approximately 57,000 associations were registered with the Ministry of Social Solidarity in late 2019. The vast majority of these, however, are believed to be inactive or to exist only on paper. Ministry data indicates that only around 2,500 registered associations are considered active.|
|Barriers to Entry||Law 149 requires that associations have ten founding members and a physical headquarters. Registration is mandatory for all entities that practice “civil work,” defined in the law as non-profit activities that aim to achieve societal development. Informal (unregistered) associations and foundations are prohibited. Registration is by “notification,” but the process requires submission of extensive documentation, and allows the Ministry broad discretion to reject the registration during a 60-day waiting period.|
|Barriers to Activities|| |
|Barriers to Speech and/or Advocacy|| |
|Barriers to International Contact||Domestic associations must obtain prior permission from the Ministry before they “join, affiliate, participate, or cooperate, in any other form” with any foreign organization or entity. Associations must also obtain permission from the Ministry before they may employ foreign individuals, whether as workers or volunteers. Foreigners may not make up more than 25% of an association’s board or membership.|
|Barriers to Resources|| |
|Barriers to Assembly|| |
|Population||106,437,241 (July 2021 est.)|
|Type of Government||Republic|
|Life Expectancy at Birth||male: 72.54 years; female: 75.57 years (2021 est.)|
|Literacy Rate||male: 76.5%; female: 65.5% (2017 est.)|
|Religious Groups||Muslim (mostly Sunni) 90%, Coptic 9%, other Christian 1%|
|Ethnic Groups||Egyptian 99.6%, other 0.4% (2006 census)|
|GDP Per Capita (PPP)||$12,700 (2017 est.)|
Source: The World Factbook. Washington, DC: Central Intelligence Agency.
|Ranking Body||Rank||Ranking Scale |
(best – worst possible)
|UN Human Development Index||116 (2020)||1 – 182|
|World Justice Project Rule of Law Index||136 (2021)||1 – 139|
|Transparency International||117 (2020)||1 – 180|
|Foreign Policy: Fragile States Index||39 (2021)||178 – 1|
|Freedom House: Freedom in the World||Status: Not Free |
Political Rights: 6
Civil Liberties: 12 (2021)
|Free/Partly Free/Not Free |
1 – 40
1 – 60
International and Regional Human Rights Agreements
|Key International Agreements||Ratification*||Year|
|International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR)||Yes||1982|
|Optional Protocol to ICCPR (ICCPR-OP1)||No||—|
|International Covenant on Economic, Social, and Cultural Rights (ICESCR)||Yes||1982|
|Optional Protocol to ICESCR (OP-ICESCR)||Yes||1957|
|International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination (ICERD)||Yes||1967|
|Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW)||Yes||1981|
|Optional Protocol to the Convention on the Elimination of Discrimination Against Women||No||—|
|Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC)||Yes||1990|
|International Convention on the Protection of the Rights of All Migrant Workers and Members of their Families (ICRMW)||Yes||1993|
|Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD)||Yes||2008|
|Key Regional Agreements||Ratification*||Year|
|Arab Charter on Human Rights||Yes||2004 (signed but not ratified)|
|African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights||Yes||1984|
|African Charter on the Rights and Welfare of the Child||No||—|
|Treaty Establishing the African Economic Community||No||—|
|Protocol to the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights on the Rights of Women in Africa||No||—|
|Protocol to the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights on the Establishment of an African Court on Human and Peoples’ Rights||No||—|
* Category includes ratification, accession, or succession to the treaty
Egypt’s Constitution was adopted by popular referendum in January 2014, and most recently amended in 2019. The constitution contains numerous rights protections that are relevant to civil society, although most of these have yet to see significant enforcement in practice. Relevant Constitutional provisions include:
Article 65 Freedom of thought:
Freedom of thought and opinion is guaranteed.
All individuals have the right to express their opinion through speech, writing, imagery, or any other means of expression and publication.
Article 70 Freedom of the press:
Freedom of press and printing, along with paper, visual, audio and digital distribution is guaranteed. Egyptians — whether natural or legal persons, public or private — have the right to own and issue newspapers and establish visual, audio and digital media outlets.
Newspapers may be issued once notification is given as regulated by law. The law shall regulate ownership and establishment procedures for visual and radio broadcast stations in addition to online newspapers.
Article 71 Freedom of publication:
It is prohibited to censor, confiscate, suspend or shut down Egyptian newspapers and media outlets in any way. Exception may be made for limited censorship in time of war or general mobilization.
No custodial sanction shall be imposed for crimes committed by way of publication or the public nature thereof. Punishments for crimes connected with incitement to violence or discrimination amongst citizens, or impugning the honor of individuals are specified by law.
Article 73 Freedom of assembly:
Citizens have the right to organize public meetings, marches, demonstrations and all forms of peaceful protest, while not carrying weapons of any type, upon providing notification as regulated by law.
The right to peaceful, private meetings is guaranteed, without the need for prior notification. Security forces may not attend, monitor or eavesdrop on such gatherings.
Article 74 Freedom to form political parties:
Citizens have the right to form political parties by notification as regulated by the law. No political activity may be exercised or political parties formed on the basis of religion, or discrimination based on sex, origin, sect or geographic location, nor may any activity be practiced that is hostile to democracy, secretive, or which possesses a military or quasi-military nature.
Parties may only dissolved by a judicial ruling.
Article 75 Right to establish associations:
Citizens have the right to form non-governmental organizations and institutions on a democratic basis, which shall acquire legal personality upon notification.
They shall be allowed to engage in activities freely. Administrative agencies shall not interfere in the affairs of such organizations, dissolve them, their board of directors, or their board of trustees except by a judicial ruling.
The establishment or continuation of non-governmental organizations and institutions whose structure and activities are operated and conducted in secret, or which possess a military or quasi-military character are forbidden, as regulated by law.
Article 76 Right to form syndicates:
The establishment of federations and syndicates on a democratic basis is a right guaranteed by law. Such federations and syndicates will possess legal personality, be able to practice their activities freely, contribute to improving the skills of its members, defend their rights and protect their interests.
The state guarantees the independence of all federations and syndicates. The boards of directors thereof may only dissolved by a judicial ruling.
Syndicates may not be established within governmental bodies.
Article 77 Trade unions:
The law shall regulate the establishment and administration of professional syndicates on a democratic basis, guarantee their independence, and specify their resources and the way members are recorded and held accountable for their behavior while performing their professional activities, according to ethical codes of moral and professional conduct.
No profession may establish more than one syndicate. Receivership may not be imposed nor may administrative bodies intervene in the affairs of such syndicates, and their boards of directors may only be dissolved by a judicial ruling. All legislation pertaining to a given profession shall be submitted to the relevant syndicate for consultation.
National Laws and Regulations Affecting Sector
Relevant national-level laws and regulations affecting civil society include:
- Constitution of Arab Republic of Egypt of 2014
- Civil Code (Law 131 of 1948 as amended)
- Law on Regulating the Exercise of Civil Work (Law 149 of 2019) [English] [عربي]
- Law on the Right to Public Meetings, Processions and Peaceful Demonstrations (Law 107 of 2013)
- Assembly Law of 1914 (Law 107 above did not replace this law, which is still on the books and may be used to impose additional penal sanctions)
- Law Regulating the Press, Media, and the Supreme Council for Media Regulation (Law No. 180 of 2018)
- Commercial Register Law (Law 34 of 1976 as amended by Law 98 of 1996)
- Anti-Cyber and Information Technology Crimes Law, 2018
- Resolution of the Prime Minister Concerning Executive Regulations for Law No. 149 of 2019 on Regulating the Exercise of Civil Work
- Implementing Regulations 104 of 2021 for the Law Regulating the Exercise of Civil Work (Law 149 of 2019) [English]
Pending Legislative Initiatives
Please help keep us informed; if you are aware of pending initiatives, write to ICNL at firstname.lastname@example.org .
Law 149 of 2019 provides for the establishment of civil associations and foundations. Not-for-profit companies can be established according to provisions in the Egyptian Civil Code and Corporate Code, however if these entities practice “civil work” as defined by Law 149, or “any of the activities of associations,” they must comply with Law 149.
According to Law 149, an association is an “organized group aimed at contributing to the development of individuals and the society; realizing the society’s demands; maximizing its capacity for participation in the public sphere and sustainable development; and not aiming at a profit.” It must be “established in accordance with the provisions of [Law 149] and shall be composed of no less than ten natural or legal persons, or both.” (Article 1(2)) Civil work is defined in the law as any not-for-profit activity that aims to achieve social development. (Article 1(1)) In addition to requiring at least ten founders to form an association, the law requires that all founders and board members must have the legal capacity to exercise their civil and political rights and must never have been convicted of a crime that “breaches honor or integrity” and that was punished with a prison sentence or other criminal penalty unless they have been rehabilitated, nor may their names have appeared on “terrorist lists.” (Article 4) Further, the number of founders or members of an association that are not Egyptian cannot be more than 25 percent. (Article 5)
According to Law 149, a foundation is established where a natural or legal person designates a fund of at least 20,000 Egyptian Pounds (approximately $1,200) for a not-for-profit, civil work purpose. (Article 1(4))
The remainder of this report will focus on associations, as the association has historically been by far the most common organizational form of CSO in Egypt.
Public Benefit Status
An association that pursues the public interest in its activities may be recognized as a “public benefit association” via a resolution from the Prime Minister or his or her delegate. (Article 55) An association may request this status from the Ministry of Social Solidarity and the Ministry will determine whether the association meets two criteria: if it aims to achieve a public benefit, and if its activities do not reveal any “financial, technical, or administrative violations.” (Executive Regulations, Article 99)
According to Article 56 of Law 149, the resolution from the Prime Minister or their delegate will also define the privileges that public benefit associations may enjoy, including the protection of such associations’ funds and possible government seizure of properties to assist the associations in fulfilling their public benefit purposes. Historically, many public benefit associations in Egypt have had close political links to the ruling party or President.
Barriers to Entry
Law 149 of 2019 includes of a number of legal and practical barriers to the establishment of associations. First, the law requires that all organizations doing “civil work” (defined above, see “Organizational Forms”) effectively register under Law 149 in order to operate. The law expressly prohibits any entity to carry out civil work without complying with Law 149. (Preamble Articles 3-4) Any individual who establishes or works with an unregistered or unauthorized organization is subject to up a fine of 100,000-1 million Egyptian Pounds (roughly $6,000-$60,000). (Article 94)
In order to register, the law provides that associations “merely” need to notify the Ministry of Social Solidarity of their establishment. Nonetheless, subsequent provisions ensure that the notification process is burdensome, time-consuming, and subject to expansive government discretion: The notification of establishment must be accompanied by an extensive amount of documentation and personal information about founders including their criminal records, for instance. Associations must also have evidence that they occupy a physical property and pay a fee of up to 5,000 Egyptian Pounds (roughly $300) as part of their notification. (Article 8)
When an association submits its notification, the Ministry of Social Solidarity (hereafter “Ministry”) must provide a receipt, acknowledging that the association has fulfilled the information and documentation requirements. (Article 9) For sixty days following receipt of an association’s notification, however, the Ministry has broad grounds to suspend the association’s legal establishment, including if any of the information it has provided is “incomplete or unauthentic,” or if its proposed purposes are criminalized in the Penal Code or “any other law.” (Article 9) In the case of a suspension, Law 149 provides that associations have sixty days to correct any violation or provide any missing information; they may also appeal the suspension decision before a court. (Article 9) Only after sixty days have elapsed without Ministry objection may associations consider themselves duly established.
Foreign and international NGOs have additional obstacles: In order to operate in Egypt, they must apply for and obtain an operating permit from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. (Article 65) According to Law 149, the license will authorize the association’s activities “for a limited term” determined by the Minister of Foreign Affairs; there are no conditions or criteria to circumscribe this determination. The license request must be accompanied by extensive “data and documents” which include the organization’s funding sources and sources of funding for all activities to be carried out in Egypt, and criminal histories of the organization’s founders and managers. Foreign and international organizations seeking a license must also pay a fee of up to 50,000 Egyptian Pounds (approximately $3,000) which will increase by 20 percent every time the license is renewed, up to 200 thousand Egyptian Pounds (approximately $12,000). (Article 66, 67)
According to Law 149’s Executive Regulations, the operating license for foreign and international organizations will specify the activities—as well as the activities’ geographic scope, duration, and sources of funding—that the organizations are permitted to undertake in Egypt. (Executive Regulations, Article 116) Law 149 provides that the Minister of Foreign Affairs may cancel the operating license at any time for “reasons related to any threats to national security, public safety, or public order.” (Article 74) The Minister of Foreign Affairs may also cancel or suspend the organization’s activities if it violates Law 149 or the “rules for conducting licensed activities” (Article 74). The cancelation or suspension order must be “reasoned,” but it is not appealable.
Barriers to Operational Activity
Barriers to operational activity in Egypt take the form of explicit, legal limitations on permissible activities, governmental interference in internal affairs, vague grounds for dissolution, the imposition of harsh sanctions, and extra-legal harassment by security authorities.
First, Law 149 of 2019 expressly limits the activities that CSOs may engage in. Domestic associations and foreign NGOs are restricted to undertaking activities “in the fields of societal development” that consider “the development plans of the state and needs of the community.” (Article 14) On the other hand, Law 149 lists numerous activities that are prohibited: all associations are barred from carrying out “any political, partisan, or union activity” regulated by other laws, or anything that “violates the public order, public morals, national unity or national security.” (Article 15(b) and (d)) They are barred from conducting opinion polls or publishing the results and they cannot conduct field research unless it is approved beforehand by the Central Statistics Organization. (Article 15(j)) Associations are additionally barred from undertaking any activities that are “contradictory” to the purposes listed in their approved notification or license. (Article 15(a)) Violation of these prohibitions may be penalized by suspension of the association’s activities, dismissal of its directors, dissolution, and/or steep fines levied on any individuals personally involved in conducting the activities. (Articles 45, 47, 48, 94, 95)
Second, Law 149 also explicitly authorizes the government to interfere in the internal affairs of an association. Specifically:
- Law 149 provides that representatives of the Ministry (of Social Solidarity) may enter the premises of an association “to monitor its activities, review its records, and inspect the administrative, technical and financial aspects of its work.” (Article 30) The Ministry must notify the association about the inspection beforehand unless it has received an “official complaint,” in which case it is authorized to enter without prior notice. (Article 30) An association’s staff and directors are obligated to facilitate the Ministry’s inspection. (Article 30)
- Law 149 establishes a new unit within the Ministry, called the “Central Unit,” that is tasked with the “supervision and oversight” of Egyptian and foreign organizations. (Article 76) The staff of the Central Unit as well as any “subunits” identified by the Ministry of Justice are endowed with the authority of “judicial control officers,” or law enforcement, in carrying out their mandate. (Article 79)
- Law 149 requires that associations submit to the Ministry the minutes of all meetings of its directors and all decisions taken (Article 36), and authorizes the Ministry to contest any decision taken by an association. The Ministry may request the withdrawal of such a decision within 30 days if it is deemed to violate the law or the association’s bylaws. (Article 34)
- The Ministry may review any new board members that an association proposes and disqualify those it deems ineligible for candidacy. (Article 38) The disqualified member may appeal to a court, but he or she has only seven days to do so.
- The Ministry or any other individual may seek a court order to dismiss an association’s board of directors on broad grounds: These include the association’s receipt or sending of money from a foreign source without prior approval; entering into an agreement with a foreign organization without prior approval; committing crimes related to the misuse of public funds; or failing to enable an inspection of the association’s records and activities by Ministry representatives. (Article 47)
Third, Law 149 provides for numerous overbroad acts or omissions that may result in the Ministry suspending an association’s activities for up to one year or dissolving the association altogether. Acts for which the Ministry may suspend an association’s activities include: submitting inaccurate data in the association’s notification documents; relocating without notifying the Ministry within three months; carrying out activities not listed in the association’s notification or not otherwise specifically licensed; allocating money to activities for purposes other than those the association was established for; and carrying out activities prohibited by Law 149. Notably, Law 149 provides that the Ministry may issue a suspension order temporarily, but that it is only effective if supported by a court decision that the Ministry must request within seven days of issuing the order. (Article 45)
Law 149 also provides a number of broad grounds for associations to be dissolved by court order, including the receipt of foreign funding without prior permission or raising domestic funds without prior notification to the government. (Article 48(4)-(5)) The Ministry may also request a court-ordered dissolution if an association collaborates or affiliates with a foreign entity without prior government approval. (Article 48(6)), or if an association’s “real purposes” are “proven” to include the carrying out of activities prohibited by Law 149 (Article 48(2)). While an association’s court case is pending, the law prohibits it from fundraising or receiving any foreign donations. (Article 49) Finally, in any instance of an individual offense under the law (see below), the court may order an association’s closure, prohibit it from receiving donations, or suspend its activities. (Article 97)
Fourth, Law 149 and other provisions of Egyptian law make harsh individual sanctions – including steep fines – available for associations’ and their members’ violations of the law. Law 149 provides, for instance, that an individual who “conducts” any activity that “violates the public order, public morals, national unity or national security,” will be subject to a fine of between 100 thousand and one million Egyptian Pounds (approximately $6,000-$60,000). (Article 94(3)) The law imposes a fine in the same range on any member or director of an association who receives funds from outside of Egypt or sends of funds abroad without obtaining approval, or who otherwise violates the law’s provisions related to fundraising. (Article 94(1)) Law 149 imposes a lesser but still severe fine of between 50,000 and 500 thousand Egyptian Pounds (approximately $3,000-$30,000) on individuals for a number of other acts, including practicing “a political, partisan, or union activity that is regulated by other laws,” conducting opinion polls, entering into an agreement with a foreign entity without prior Ministry approval, or failing to facilitate the Ministry’s inspection of an association. (Article 95(3)-(4)) Finally, Law 149 provides that the individual in charge of an association’s management may be held jointly liable and punished with the same sanctions if he or she knew of the violations and failed to prevent them. (Article 96)
In addition to the above, Law 149 incorporates by reference—as Law 70 did—any harsher penalty in the Penal Code or “any other law.” (Article 93) Certain provisions of the Penal Code, in particular Articles 86bis and 98, also penalize particular activities relating to associations.
Finally, the security apparatus has historically interfered in association’s activities and operations, and incidents of harassment have increased significantly since the 2011 Revolution. For instance, in December 2011, authorities raided and shut down the offices of six international and Egyptian organizations, and commenced a two-year trial of NGO employees marked by procedural violations (reopened in 2016 as Case No. 173/2011). In December 2013, security authorities raided the offices of the Egyptian Center for Economic and Social Rights, and detained and beat six employees. Egyptian officials raided and searched the Egyptian Commissions for Rights and Freedom’s (ECRF) offices in Cairo in October 2016; witnesses said the officials appeared to be part of Egypt’s police apparatus. Security authorities also shut down the El-Nadeem Center for the Rehabilitation of Victims of Violence and Torture in February 2017, after repeated attempts to shutter the Center and freezing of its assets in 2016.
Barriers to Speech / Advocacy
Egyptian law prohibits “any political, partisan, or union activity” by associations and other entities governed by Law 149. This prohibition is broader than that in the previous CSO law, Law 84 of 2002, which more narrowly prohibited associations from carrying out “any political activities the exercise of which is restricted to political parties according to the Parties Law.” The broader language of Law 149 gives officials greater leeway to decide what is considered “political” or “partisan” and thus prohibited under the law. Advocacy activities or those concerned with civil and political rights, for instance, could potentially be encompassed by the law and disallowed.
Egypt’s strict defamation and insult laws, often involving criminal penalties, have also been used to silence critics of Egypt’s Government. This was the case prior to the 2011 Revolution and has remained the case afterwards, as countless provisions criminalizing defamation of public authorities in particular remain part of the Penal Code. This had led to legal charges against journalists and others, such as satirist Bassem Youssef, whose television show was famous for mocking Egypt’s military and political leaders from 2011 to 2014. In addition to laws severely penalizing defamation and related offenses, Egyptian law includes other restrictions on speech, such as penalties for spreading false information or harming public morals. In November 2015, for instance, Hossam Bahgat, the founder of the Egyptian Initiative for Personal Rights and an investigative journalist, was detained for three days on charges of “publishing false news aimed at harming national security,” after he published an article on the trial of 26 military officers accused of having plotted a coup.
Egypt has enacted new laws that constrain speech and expression online, as well. The cybercrimes law of 2018 enables the government to block any website “deemed to constitute a threat to national security or the economy;” anyone found guilty of operating or visiting these sites may be subject to imprisonment and fines. Amendments to Egypt’s press and publications law in 2018 prohibit “publishing or broadcasting false news and encouraging or inciting, violence, hatred, discrimination between citizens, calling for racism or intolerance;” the amendments also specify that any individual with a social media account or blog with over 5,000 followers will be treated as a media or press outlet, subject to the same broad prohibitions.
In addition, on April 3, 2020, the Supreme Council for Media Regulation blocked or limited access to dozens of news websites and social media accounts for allegedly spreading false information about the coronavirus. In total, between the February outbreak of the virus in Egypt and early September 2020, Egypt arrested at least ten doctors and eight journalists, and authorities have instructed health workers not to discuss the health crisis with the press.
Barriers to International Contact
Law 149 requires that associations obtain advance approval from the Ministry of Social Solidarity before they may “join, affiliate, participate, or cooperate, in any other form” with a foreign entity. (Article 19) In addition, Law 149 separately provides that an association may not enter into “agreements of any kind” with any foreign entity, whether inside or outside of Egypt, unless the Ministry has granted specific approval. (Article 15(k)) Law 149 prohibits associations from employing foreign individuals, whether “as experts, temporary or permanent workers, or volunteers,” unless they have obtained a license to do so from the Minister. (Article 72) Associations may only open branch offices outside Egypt with permission from the Ministry, as well. (Article 20)
Egyptian authorities have also issued travel bans to prevent numerous individuals—including association representatives and civil society activists—from traveling outside Egypt to participate in international conferences and meetings. Authorities have prevented representatives of international organizations from entering Egypt, as well. This was the case, for instance, with Egypt scholar Michele Dunne, who was turned away at Cairo Airport in December 2014 while trying to attend a foreign affairs conference.
Barriers to Resources
Law 149 requires that associations’ bank accounts be located in a bank under the supervision of the Central Bank of Egypt, and that they use only those accounts for all transactions related to the association’s activities. (Article 23) The accounts may only be opened once an association has successfully completed the notification process, at which point Law 149 provides that the Ministry “shall issue a letter” to a bank under the Central Bank of Egypt, directing it to open a bank account for the association. (Article 10) It is not clear if an association can open an account in the absence of this letter, or what actions it can take to obtain this letter if the Ministry fails to issue it. Associations must notify the Ministry of the number of their bank account. (Article 32)
Law 149 provides that associations may carry out other financial activities, out-side of bank transactions, only after notifying the Ministry and obtaining approval from the Financial Regulatory Authority. (Article 35)
Law 149 provides for the creation of a new Ministry database, which will include information on all associations’ sources of funding. (Article 8, 10) The Ministry may also request that the Attorney General order banks to disclose information about associations’ accounts. (Article 10)
Law 149 provides that associations’ resources are considered “public funds.” (Article 23), which has significant implications under Egyptian law. According to the Penal Code, any citizen may request an investigation of spending from “public funds,” and if someone requests an investigation of an association’s resources, the association’s access to those funds may be frozen. If a court ultimately finds that “public funds” have been misused, moreover, it may impose severe penalties under the Penal Code.
Law 149 perpetuates a system of state control over associations’ access to foreign funding, giving the government the authority and unbounded discretion to disallow most grants and donations from outside Egypt or from foreign entities inside Egypt. (Article 27) If an association receives such funds, it must notify the Ministry within 30 days. The required “notification” comprises extensive information about the donor, the funds, and the activities to be funded—including a detailed budget for each activity and a “feasibility study” of the activity. (Executive Regulations, Article 47) The Ministry has 60 days to object to the funds, during which time the association may not use the funds. Neither the law nor its Executive Regulations provide specific grounds on which the Ministry may object, giving the Ministry unbounded discretion to reject a funding request. Within 15 days of such an objection, the association must request have its bank return the funds, and must provide documentation to the Ministry proving that it did so. (Executive Regulations Article 49)
Notably, Law 149 provides that the absence of a Ministry objection during the 60-day period may be considered approval. (Article 27) However, the law and its Executive Regulations do not provide a way for associations to prove the absence of an objection.
Failure to comply with Law 149’s requirements around foreign funding can lead to individual penalties including a fine of between 100 thousand and one million Egyptian Pounds (approximately $6,000-$60,000) (Article 94(3)), and may also be grounds for the court-ordered dissolution of an association. (Articles 48(4))
Sending funds from an Egyptian CSO to a natural or legal person abroad also requires advance approval from the Ministry. (Article 27) The law makes an exception for scientific and technical books, magazines, publications, and brochures.
Egypt’s Penal Code creates additional restrictions on foreign funding. Following amendments in September 2014, Penal Code Article 78 provides for expanded penalties on anyone who accepts foreign funds in order to conduct activities deemed harmful to Egypt’s national interests and unity. Article 78 punishes with life in prison and a steep fine anyone who receives funding or other support from a foreign source, with the intent to “harm the national interest,” “compromise national unity,” or “breach security or public peace.” The provisions impose the same penalty of a life sentence on anyone who gives or offers such support, or “facilitates” its receipt. The vague language and broad terms of Article 78 have led to self-censorship among human rights organizations and activists, who fear the provisions may be used to prosecute them for activity that is critical of the government.
Law 149 imposes similar limitations on associations’ access to domestic funding as well. The law provides that associations must notify the Ministry upon receipt of any donations, grants, or any other form of funds from local entities in Egypt or foreign organizations licensed to operate in Egypt. (Article 24) The Executive Regulations provide that organizations receiving such funds must follow the same process as with foreign funding: They must submit a “notification,” comprising extensive details and documentation, within 30 days of receiving the funds, and wait for 60 days during which the Ministry may object. (Executive Regulations Articles 47-48)
Law 149 also restricts associations’ ability to carry out domestic fundraising: Any fundraising activity may be undertaken only after associations obtain a license from the Ministry. (Article 25-26) The association must submit a license request at least 60 days prior to the fundraising activity. The request must include the activities for which donations are sought, and the methods, duration, and geographic scope of the fundraising. (Executive Regulations Article 57) If an association violates the licensing conditions, the Ministry may suspend the association’s activities for up to one year or request a court to order its dissolution or dismissal of its directors. (Article 29)
Barriers to Assembly
It is estimated that more than 3,000 individuals were killed in the context of demonstrations in the months during and after the 2011 Revolution – the majority in instances of excessive use of force by authorities. Thousands more have been detained and charged with violating provisions of the law governing protests, even in the absence of any individual evidence against them; others are not charged at all, but spend extensive time in periodically-renewed pretrial detention.
In November 2013, interim President Adly Mansour approved a controversial new law to regulate public assembly in Egypt, including marches, demonstrations, and public meetings of ten people or more. As originally issued, the law required assembly organizers to notify the Interior Ministry at least three days before assembling, and allows the Ministry to ban protests or impose other harsh penalties, including imprisonment, for a range of vaguely defined acts such as “violating the public order,” “impeding the interests of citizens,” or “obstructing traffic.” Under amendments to the law approved in March 2017, the Interior Ministry no longer has blanket authority to ban protests; that power was transferred to the judiciary. Accordingly, if a court refuses an organizer’s notification of intent to protest, the organizer may appeal. (The amendments modify Article 10 of the law in accordance with the December 2016 ruling by the Supreme Constitutional Court.)
The law also fails to place adequate restrictions on the use of force to break up assemblies. Since the law was issued, police have forcibly dispersed numerous peaceful protests; it is estimated that many hundreds of individuals have been arrested and imprisoned under the new law. These include prominent activists such as Alaa Abd El-Fattah, a leader of the “No to Military Trials” campaign, who was arrested for organizing an unauthorized protest and sentenced in 2015 to five years in prison. Egypt’s Illegal Assembly Law of 1914 also remains in effect, and, together with various provisions of the Penal Code, is often used to bring additional charges against individuals detained in the context of protests. A lawsuit by the Cairo Institute for Human Rights Studies seeking the repeal of the law was dismissed in January 2020.
On May 8, 2020, Amendments to the Emergency Law No. 162/1958 expanded the powers of the president and military prosecution during a declared state of emergency. Under the amended Emergency Law, powers available to the president included the power to: ban private and public gatherings in addition to protests; shut down schools and universities; suspend operations in the private and public sector; and subject anyone returning from outside the country to quarantine.
|UN Universal Periodic Review Reports||Universal Periodic Review 2019: Egypt|
|Reports of UN Special Rapporteurs||Egypt|
|USIG (United States International Grantmaking) Country Notes||Not available|
|U.S. State Department||2019 Human Rights Report: Egypt|
|Fragile States Index Reports||2020 Foreign Policy Fragile States Index|
|IMF Country Reports||Arab Republic of Egypt: Selected Issues: 2007 |
Arab Republic of Egypt: Selected Issues: 2005
|International Commission of Jurists||ICJ Submission to the Universal Periodic Review of Egypt August 2009 |
Egypt – ACIJLP Organizes the First Activities of its Campaign “Empowering Women to Hold Judiciary Positions in Egypt”: 2006
|NGO Regulation Network Reports||Egypt – Fast Facts|
|CIVICUS Civil Society Index Reports||Civil Society Index – Country Report for Egypt|
|International Center for Not-for-Profit Law Online Library||Egypt|
While we aim to maintain information that is as current as possible, we realize that situations can rapidly change. If you are aware of any additional information or inaccuracies on this page, please keep us informed; write to ICNL at email@example.com.
Egypt’s leader ends state of emergency, says it’s no longer needed (October 2021)
President el-Sisi announced that he had lifted a four-year-old state of emergency, undoing powers that gave the government sweeping authority to quash protests, detain dissidents and control everyday life. Critics called it a superficial change that would not fundamentally alter the repressive status quo. The move came less than two months after the Biden administration said Egypt would not receive $130 million of the $1.3 billion it receives in annual American aid unless it made certain human rights reforms.
Egypt announces human rights strategy to mixed reviews (September 2021)
President el-Sisi launched Egypt’s National Strategy for Human Rights after a year of consultations. While the strategy contains goals long sought by rights activists and organizations, such as “reviewing crimes that are punishable with the death penalty” and “combating torture,” critics say it is a cynical ploy to mitigate international criticism and improve the government’s image.
Judge drops charges against 4 NGOs in “foreign funding case” (September 2021)
The investigating judge in Case 173, the 2011 case revolving around the foreign funding of CSOs, dropped charges against four organizations on grounds of insufficient evidence. The judge also lifted an asset freeze and travel ban on the organizations’ founders. Charges have so far been dropped for 71 entities and more than 200 individuals originally targeted in the case.
At the UN, States criticize the human rights situation in Egypt (March 2021)
On March 12, 32 states delivered a joint declaration to the Human Rights Council highlighting “restrictions on freedom of expression and the right to peaceful assembly, the constrained space for civil society and political opposition.” The declaration also condemned Egypt’s use of counter-terrorism laws to punish peaceful critics. The declaration followed advocacy by more than 100 CSOs around the world, seeking states’ action to end Egypt’s human rights violations.
Egypt arrests leading human rights group’s employees (November 2020)
Egypt has arrested three employees of a leading domestic human rights group, the Egyptian Initiative for Personal Rights (EIPR). The crackdown came after EIPR staff met with Western ambassadors in Cairo, the rights group said. EIPR advocates for personal and religious rights, against the death penalty and publishes investigation into violations in prisons and human rights abuses in general. Those stances leave it vulnerable in Egypt, where in recent years the government has imprisoned and restricted the travel of thousands of dissidents, political activists, journalists, protesters and human rights defenders.
Egypt uses terrorism trials to target human rights activists (October 2020)
Egypt is using exceptional “Terrorism Circuit Courts” to target human rights defenders, silence dissent, and to lock up activists during the COVID-19 pandemic, UN human rights experts said. “Terrorism charges and exceptional courts are being used to target legitimate human rights activities, and have a profound chilling effect on civil society as a whole,” the experts said. “The use of terrorism courts to target and harass civil society is inconsistent with the rule of law.”
Hundreds arrested on anniversary of 2019 anti-corruption protests (September 2020)
At least 190 people were arrested in response to small-scale, scattered demonstrations marking the first anniversary of the anti-corruption protests of September 2019. According to human rights lawyer Khalid Ali, most of those arrested face charges of spreading false information, misuse of social media, and joining a terrorist group. Other charges include assaulting security forces, funding terrorist organizations, and inciting people to gather.
“Targeting the Last Line of Defense: Egypt’s Attacks against Lawyers” (September 2020)
A joint briefing paper by the International Commission of Jurists and the Tahrir Institute for Middle East Policy (TIMEP) documents the arrest, enforced disappearance, and abuse in detention of lawyers in Egypt amid a “wider, relentless crackdown on fundamental rights and freedoms by the Egyptian authorities” under President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi.
Amnesty: Human rights defender handed outrageous 15-year prison sentence (August 2020)
A Terrorism Court in Cairo sentenced exiled Bahey el-Din Hassan, a prominent human rights defender, to 15 years in prison on fabricated charges related to “insulting the judiciary” and “disseminating false news.” Bahey el-Din Hassan is one of the founding members of Egypt’s human rights movement, and this sentence, which was handed down in his absence, is a mockery of justice and sends a chilling message to Egypt’s embattled human rights movement.
Egypt moves toward toughening up draconian anti-terror law (February 2020)
Egypt’s legislature on Monday gave its initial approval for toughening up already draconian anti-terrorism laws, with amendments that include life sentences and capital punishment for funding terrorism, the state-run news agency said. The law and the amendments are widely seen as part of an unprecedented crackdown on dissent waged by President Abdel Fattah el-Sissi since coming to power in 2013.
Human rights organizations call on Egyptian authorities to cease restrictions on internet freedoms (May 2020)
Following the rise in the number of patients with the novel coronavirus (COVID-19), Egyptian authorities have taken significant, large-scale measures in order to limit the spread of the virus. These include imposing a curfew on citizens for a specified number of hours, the full and temporary closure of some government departments, and reduction of the number of present employees in other departments and entities. However, the Egyptian government has persisted in its practices that restrict the rights to freedom of expression and freedom of information, as well as curtailing free use of the internet.
Covid-19 Cover for New Repressive Powers (May 2020)
The Egyptian Parliament on April 22, 2020 swiftly approved government-proposed amendments to the 1958 Emergency Law, which will give additional sweeping powers to President Abd al-Fattah al-Sisi and security agencies, Human Rights Watch said. President al-Sisi should return the amendments unsigned to Parliament, which should revise the many abusive articles in the law.
Egypt: Campaign against state’s unlawful use of colonial-era Assembly Law continues despite courtroom defeat (January 2020)
An ongoing challenge against the Egyptian government’s unlawful use of the repealed British occupation-era Assembly Law ended in defeat on January 18th in the Administrative Court’s first circuit. The court’s decision to dismiss the lawsuit represents justice denied yet again for the thousands of Egyptians who remain imprisoned under the Assembly Law (no.10 of 1914), and represents a dire risk for those currently facing prosecution for demonstrating, especially in the aftermath of last year’s unprecedentedly sweeping arrest campaign following protests in late September. The Cairo Institute for Human Rights Studies is deeply concerned by the court’s decision while reaffirming its commitment to continuing its campaign to genuinely abolish this archaic, repressive law, nearly a century after it was unanimously repealed by the Egyptian Parliament.
Egypt police raid independent news outlet after journalist arrest (November 2019)
Egyptian news outlet Mada Masr said on Sunday security forces raided their Cairo office and arrested three other journalists before releasing them. “Plain-clothes security forces have raided Mada Masr’s office in Cairo. Staff are currently being held inside, and their phones have been switched off,” the independent news site posted on Twitter. Journalists Rana Mamdouh, Mohamed Hamama, and Lina Attalah were arrested and taken to Cairo’s Dokki police station, but were released a few hours later, Mada Masr said.
Egypt’s Harsh Crackdown Quashes Protest Movement (October 2019)
group of teenagers arrested on their way to buy new school clothes. An illiterate shoeshiner picked up from the street. Eight people stopped while they were eating from a street food cart. These are among the latest political prisoners to overcrowd Egypt’s jails, arrested as President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi moved to quash the anti-government protests that first erupted across Egypt two weeks ago. The harsh crackdown — one of the largest waves of arrests in Egypt in decades — has ended the short-lived protest movement and put Mr. el-Sisi back in control, at least for now.
Rights Groups Call for Immediate Release of Protesters(September 2019)
The brutal crackdown by Egyptian state security, which in the last few days was marked by the arrests of nearly 2000 people – including peaceful demonstrators, political leaders, rights activists, journalists, and lawyers – constitutes a flagrant violation of the right to free expression and peaceful protest, and a weapon of intimidation against political and human rights advocacy and any attendant media and legal support.
New NGO Law Renews Draconian Restrictions (July 2019)
Egypt’s parliament approved a new law governing nongovernment organizations on July 14, 2019 that would maintain many of the existing restrictions on their work, Human Rights Watch said today. President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi should not approve the law and instead should return it to parliament for amendments.
Arrests Target Political Figures Involved in New Coalition to Run in 2020 Parliamentary Elections (June 2019)
Several political figures involved in discussions to form a new political alliance meant to stand in 2020 parliamentary elections were arrested beginning at dawn on Tuesday. Those detained face accusations of leading a plot “to bring down the state” ahead of the June 30 anniversary. This plot — identified by the ministry as “The Plan for Hope” — was backed by 19 companies and economic entities secretly managed by Muslim Brotherhood leaders from abroad, according to the Interior Ministry.
Constitutional Amendments Entrench Repression (April 2019)
The Egyptian government should withdraw proposed constitutional amendments that will consolidate authoritarian rule, Human Rights Watch and the International Commission of Jurists (ICJ) said today. The amendments will undermine the Egyptian judiciary’s dwindling independence and expand the military’s power to intervene in political life. A public referendum on the amendments takes place amid ongoing mass arrests and a relentless crackdown on fundamental freedoms, including currently targeting those calling for boycotting or rejecting the amendments.
Egypt Tightens Restrictions on Media, Social Networks (March 2019)
Egypt’s top media regulator on Tuesday put into effect tighter restrictions that allow the state to block websites and even social media accounts with over 5,000 followers if they are deemed a threat to national security. The move is the latest step by the government of President Abdel-Fattah el-Sissi to suppress dissent.
Court acquits 43 defendants of all charges in NGO foreign funding case (December 2018)
A Cairo court acquitted 43 defendants tried as part of the NGO foreign funding case, overturning a June 2013 sentence convicting them of operating unlicensed NGOs and receiving foreign funding with the intention of harming national security.
Egypt MPs welcome President Sisi’s call to amend controversial NGO law (November 2018)
President Abdel-Fattah El-Sisi took all by surprise when he announced that he supports amending a controversial NGO law passed in 2016. On the second day of the World Youth Forum held in the Red Sea resort of Sharm El-Sheikh between November 3-6, participant Yostina Tharwat appealed to El-Sisi to invoke his constitutional powers to request a revision of the NGO law passed by parliament at the end of 2016, which she said has caused a lot of controversy. El-Sisi’s surprising answer was “I agree that some fears had led some articles of this law to be issued in a flawed way… I suggest that a committee be formed to hold hearing sessions on the NGO law and that state authorities move to submit an amended version to parliament.”
Egypt Passes Law to Regulate Media as President Sisi Consolidates Power (July 2018)
Egypt’s parliament passed a law giving the government sweeping powers to regulate traditional and social media, a move critics say will boost the Sisi regime’s ability to crack down on free speech and dissent. The measure allows authorities to penalize traditional media like television and newspapers for spreading what the government terms fake news. It also treats social media accounts with more than 5,000 followers as media outlets, opening Twitter and Facebook users to prosecution on vague charges including defaming religion and inciting hatred.
Egyptian Parliament Approves Cybercrime Law (June 2018)
The Association for Freedom of Thought and Expression (AFTE) and Access Now condemn the Egyptian Parliament’s approval of the Law on Combating Cybercrimes (“Cybercrime Law”), which provides new authority for online surveillance, blocking of websites, and monitoring of internet users and the use of communications services in Egypt.
Egypt’s parliament moves forward on anti-cybercrime law (April 2018)
The parliamentary communications committee has approved a draft law to combat cybercrime amid criticism that this draft law, if approved, would further stifle freedom of expression.
Sentences annulled for 16 defendants in 2011 NGO foreign funding case, retrial ordered before criminal court (April 2018)
Egypt’s Court of Cassation ordered the annulment of previous prison sentences handed to 16 defendants, Egyptians and foreigners, working for foreign NGOs in Egypt prior to 2013, and ordered a retrial before a criminal court. The ruling relates back to the 2013 sentencing of 43 civil society workers in a 2011 case against foreign and Egyptian NGO workers. Twenty-three of the defendants were sentenced to between two and five years in prison, and 11 others were given suspended sentences of one year for operating unlicensed non-governmental organizations and receiving foreign funding with the intention of harming national security.
Censorship tightens in Egypt as el-Sisi prepares for re-election bid (March 2018)
Ahead of elections later this month, in which President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi is seeking a second term, the authoritarian leader’s government has further clamped down on press freedom, issuing warnings to the media and arresting critical journalists on “false news” charges.
Egypt’s parliament approves three-month nationwide state of emergency (October 2017)
Parliament approved another three-month extension of the state of emergency, initially declared in April 2017 and renewed once in August. The state of emergency expands the powers of the president and other state authorities. Individuals suspected of terrorism can be referred to state security courts, authorities may impose curfews, and newspapers may be more extensively censored.
Protest cases to be tried in regular, not military court (October 2017)
The Constitutional Court ruled on October 14 that protest-related court cases will be tried in State Security Emergency Courts instead of military courts. The ruling was in response to a series of six cases related to illegal protesting in Beni Suef. The defendants were charged under Egypt’s newly amended protest law which gives the Interior Ministry the authority to change and/or cancel protest processions, but requires that the Ministry first secure judicial approval.
Egypt extends its assault on freedom of expression by blocking dozens of websites (August 2017)
UN Special Rapporteur on freedom of expression David Kaye and UN Special Rapporteur on human rights and counterterrorism Fionnuala Ní Aloáin “raiccsed grave concerns with the Government of Egypt over its ongoing assault on freedom of expression.”
Egypt’s President enacts law placing severe restrictions on aid groups (May 2017)
President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi enacted a law that imposes strict new regulations on aid groups, stoking fears that his government intends to accelerate its harsh crackdown on human rights activists before a presidential election scheduled for next year.
Egypt’s President Al-Sisi Issues Controversial NGO Law (May 2017)
After six months of its ratification by the Egyptian parliament, President Abdel Fattah Al-Sisi issued the controversial NGO law that is extensively criticized by civil society and rights organizations locally and internationally. The new law gives NGOs a one-year time span to comply with the new terms or they will have to suspend their activities and shut down. In a previous joint statement issued by civil society organizations and political parties, it was feared that the approval of the new law will eradicate the work of NGOs and will hand it to the government and security apparatuses. The new law stipulates that NGOs may not engage in any activities that might clash with national security and public order, which was deemed by rights groups as a “vague and broad condition”. The newly approved law will also curb the work of independent NGOs by making their funding and operation heavily controlled by the government, according to Human Rights Watch.
Egypt’s state of emergency may act to further silence press (April 2017)
Soon after the church bombings of April 9, Egyptian President Sisi announced a three-month state of emergency. According to the Committee to Protect Journalists, the measure is a further sign of Sisi’s determination to control the media and broader flow of information in the country.
Rights lawyer jailed for 10 years, issued 5-year social media ban (April 2017)
Rights lawyer Mohamed Ramadan was sentenced to 10 years in prison on charges of insulting the president, misusing social media, and inciting violence. The Alexandria Criminal Court ordered Ramadan to remain under house arrest for five years, and banned him from using social media for the same period. The ruling was issued according to Terrorism Law 94/2015, which enables courts to apply probational measures as well as prison sentences, and can include preventing the use of certain communication methods.
Egypt’s parliament regulates NGOs in law activists says is repressive (November 2016)
Egypt’s parliament overwhelmingly endorsed a law regulating non-governmental organizations on Tuesday that human rights groups and activists say effectively bans their work and makes it harder for charities to operate. The bill restricts NGO activity to developmental and social work and introduces jail terms of up to five years for non- compliance. It bans NGOs from conducting fieldwork or polls without permission or “from cooperating in any way with any international body without the necessary approval”. The bill also stipulates that foreign NGOs be overseen by a regulating agency that includes representatives of Egypt’s military, intelligence service and interior ministry.
Egypt parliament finally approves new NGO law (November 2016)
Two thirds of Egypt’s MPs approved a new 89-Article law aimed at regulating the operations of NGOs in the country. After gaining the approval of the overwhelming majority of MPs, Abdel-Aal said Egypt’s parliament has taken a historic move towards regulating the operations of NGOs on a new basis that would safeguard national security and prevents chaos.
New regulation mandates NGOs consult ministry security department on activities (August 2016)
In a letter sent to several nongovernmental organizations, the Ministry of Social Solidarity has detailed a new regulation whereby NGOs must consult with the ministry’s security department regarding all planned activities. According to the letter, registered NGOs must notify the security department of any planned visits, conferences, or panels, and least one and a half months in advance.
Retaliation still continues against the backdrop of “Foreign Funding” case (May 2016)
Seven leading human rights groups issued a joint statement condemning the escalated measures undertaken by Egypt’s government against independent human rights organizations.
Egypt human rights defender accused of belonging to terrorist group (April 2016)
Ahmad Abdallah, a prominent human rights defender and the head of the Egyptian Commission for Rights and Freedoms (ECRF), was arrested in Egypt and accused by the government of a series of offenses including, “belonging to a terrorist group.” ECRF has among other things worked to document an alarming rise in forced disappearances in Egypt over the past year.
UN experts urge Egypt to end ongoing crackdown on human rights defenders (April 2016)
Three UN human rights experts raised alarm at the continuing crackdown on human rights defenders and civil society organizations in Egypt. They warned that many NGOs have been closed down, and human rights defenders have been interrogated by the security forces, subjected to travel bans, and had their assets frozen in retaliation for their legitimate and peaceful human rights work.
Judge imposes gag order on NGO foreign funding case (March 2016)
Investigating Judge Hesham Abdel Meguid issued a gag order on the recently reopened case against local NGOs accused of unlawfully accepting foreign funds, prohibiting any type of media outlet form publishing anything on the case other than statements issued by the presiding judges, until investigations are complete.
Nazra for Feminist Studies summoned for investigation in re-opened NGO case (March 2016)
Nazra for Feminist Studies received summons for investigation in the re-opened 2011 case against a number of NGOs for operating and receiving foreign funding without a license. In the original case, filed in 2011, 43 staff from foreign NGOs were tried and sentenced to prison in June 2013; local NGOs were implicated in the investigation but not brought to trial at that time. 2011
NGO case reopened against Hossam Bahgat, Gamal Eid and others (March 2016)
A criminal court in Cairo will review a ruling to freeze the assets of four defendants, including Hossam Bahgat and Gamal Eid, pending investigations into charges that they illegally received foreign funding for their NGOs, in a case dating back to 2011. Bahgat, founder of the Egyptian Initiative for Personal Rights (EIPR), and Eid, Director of Arabic Network for Human Rights Information (ANHRI), are also barred from leaving Egypt.
Rights lawyer accused of managing illegal operation (March 2016)
Rights Lawyer and Director of the United Group law firm Negad al-Boraie was interrogated for three hours on six charges including managing an illegal organization. According to a statement issued by United Group, Boraie has been charged with establishing an unlicensed entity with the intent of “inciting resistance to authorities, implementing human rights activities without a license.. and deliberately spreading false information with the purpose of harming public order or public interest.”
Egypt dissolves 57 NGOs for “(Muslim) Brotherhood ties” (September 2015)
The Ministry of Social Solidarity ordered the closures of NGOs on the basis of the their alleged “ties with the Muslim Brotherhood,” which was banned in 2013. This brings the number of NGOs dissolved by the government in 2015 to 380.
Renewed Crackdown on Independent Groups (June 2015)
Egyptian authorities have brought increasing pressure to bear on independent NGOs in Egypt that receive foreign funding or have criticized government policies, including by means of official harassment, travel bans, and threats of prosecution or violence.
Detentions, terrorist incidents increased in the first quarter of 2015 (April 2015)
According to a report by the Democracy Index, affiliated with the Cairo-based International Development Center, 1,353 protests took place in the first three months of 2015, 40 percent of which were related to economic and social demands. The report said that both the number of detentions by Egyptian authorities and the number of terrorist incidents increased in the first quarter of 2015 as well.
Concerns over human rights and civil society discussed before UNHRC (March 2015)
A group of 19 Egyptian human rights organisations forming a coalition named The Forum of Independent Human Rights Organizations (The Forum) delivered a speech before the UN’s Human Right’s Council (UNHRC) raising concerns over the human rights situation in Egypt. The Cairo Institute for Human Rights Studies (CIHRS) delivered the speech on behalf of The Forum. It pointed to “several instances demonstrating how human rights defenders and civil society organisations are being targeted, whether through security crackdowns, unfair prosecutions, travel bans, extrajudicial killings, and repressive legislation”. The CIHRS speech asserted that “thus far there has been no genuine political will to stop violations against human rights defenders in Egypt and uphold the work of rights groups”.
Memorandum to the President from the CIHRS on the Constitution, Law, and the Emancipation of Civil Society (September 2014
The Cairo Institute for Human Rights Studies sent a memorandum signed by 23 other rights organizations to President Sisi, seeking the withdrawal of restrictive draft NGO law released by the Ministry of Social Solidarity, and cancellation of the Ministry’s registration warning issued on 18 July 2014.
Egypt: Draft Law Threatens Independent Organizations (July 2014)
Human Rights Watch issued a statement condemning the draft law on NGOs released by Egypt’s Ministry of Social Solidarity. Among other things, the draft law “would make all activities of associations.. subject to government veto,” “empower the government and security agencies to dissolve existing groups, pending a court order, or refuse to license new groups if it decided their activities could ‘threaten national unity.'”
The Confiscation of Wasla: A Dangerous Escalation in Harassment of Human Rights (June 2014)
In an escalation of the crackdown on rights groups, Egyptian security forces have confiscated Issue No. 72 of Wasla, a magazine issued by the Arabic Network for Human Rights Information (ANHRI), and arrested a worker at the press where the publication was being printed, charging him with possession of publications that call for the overthrow of the regime and which promote a terrorist organization. The worker will be held in pre-trail detention for four days pending investigations.
Egyptian president must reject flawed anti-terrorism laws (April 2014)
New counter-terrorism legislation set to be approved by Egypt’s president is deeply flawed and must be scrapped or fundamentally revised, Amnesty International said. Two draft anti-terror laws, which were sent to interim president Adly Mansour on April 3 and could be signed off at any time, would give the Egyptian authorities increased powers to muzzle freedom of expression and imprison opponents and critics. “These deeply flawed draft laws can be abused because they include an increasingly broad and vague definition of terrorism,” warned Amnesty International’s Middle East and North Africa Deputy Director Hassiba Hadj Sahraoui.
Egypt sentences American NGO workers to jail (June 2013)
NGO draft law ‘strikes fear’ into civil society (June 2013)
Ahmed Fahmi: NGO law fears unfounded (May 2013)
Statement on Repressive NGO Law (February 2013)
Final draft of NGO law sent to Cabinet (February 2013)
NGOs talk human rights violations with EU, US representatives (February 2013)
Problematic NGO law About to Be Enacted (February 2013)
Mostly forgotten, Egyptian trial of US NGO workers drags on (January 2013)
Egypt’s Constituent Assembly to become an NGO (January 2013)
NGOs reject Morsi’s constitutional declaration (December 2012)
Commissioner Füle in Egypt: Civil society has key role in delivering reform (November 2012)
Campaign assembles NGOs against draft constitution (November 2012)
Rights groups say excluded from EU talks (November 2012)
The nationalization of Egypt’s civil society (November 2012)
Under new draft law foreign funding still requires permits (October 2012)
Fix draft Constitution to protect key rights (October 2012)
Civil society has its own draft law (October 2012)
Alarm raised over Egypt constitution (September 2012)
Government studies new law to regulate foreign capital (September 2012)
Status of Muslim Brotherhood legal (August 2012)
US concerned about freedom of speech in Egypt, Bahrain (August 2012)
Funding for NGOs in decline following crackdown (July 2012)
Trial of NGO workers set to resume in Egypt (June 2012)
Representatives of NGOs reject new draft law (April 2012)
American activists fly out of Egypt, defusing row (March 2012)
Amendments to Law on Associations and Foundations to undercut foreign funding (February 2012)
Egypt: Govt-U.S. standoff could hit 40,000 NGOs (February 2012)
Egypt judges in NGO funding trial resign (February 2012)
NGO workers could face 5 years in prison, Egyptian judges say (February 2012)
Egypt names 19 Americans to face trial on NGO funding (February 2012)
Egypt officials see end to U.S. NGO stand-off (February 2012)
NGOs reject draft law regulating their activity (January 2012)
Harassment in Egypt (January 2012)
HRW Statement: Dismantle Tools of Repression (January 2012)
Egypt‘s NGOs must be protected (January 2012)
Unwanted: NGOs in post-revolution Egypt (November 2011)
Egypt’s NGOs receive $167m from abroad (October 2011)
Tough post-revolution reality for NGOs in Egypt (October 2011)
NGOs face smear campaign ahead of elections (October 2011)
Minister rejects US funding of unregistered NGOs (October 2011)
Authorities to investigate funding of unregistered NGOs (September 2011)
Civil society seeks to fight back against govt attacks (August 2011)
US defends aid as Egypt probes NGO foreign funding (August 2011)
Government accused of suppressing freedoms (July 2011)
Human rights reform an urgent priority (June 2011)
New Egyptian law criminalizes protests (March 2011)
Follow the Egyptian money (February 2011)
NGOs in Egypt adjust to turmoil (February 2011)
Does Egypt need a new constitution? (February 2011)
The foregoing information was collected by ICNL LLC Middle East / North Africa Regional office in Amman, Jordan.