The International Journal
of Not-for-Profit Law
Volume 4, Issue 1, September 2001
Saad Eddin Ibrahim’s case has cooled down in the summer heat*
Things have quieted down considerably on the Saad Eddin Ibrahim front in the three months since the surprise seven-year state security court verdict handed down in May.
Ibrahim, along with several colleagues from the Ibn Khaldoun Center for Developmental Studies (ICDS), remains in prison–receiving regular visits from his lawyers and his wife Barbara. While economic issues such as the recent pound devaluation and other high-profile trials like the Queen Boat case have largely pushed Ibrahim off the nation’s front pages, plans for an appeal are progressing quietly.
Ibrahim and five co-defendants filed their request for a retrial in late July, citing numerous examples of how judicial practice and standards were violated in Judge Muhammad Shalabi’s verdict. A preliminary court date has been set for October 17 — later than the defendants hoped, but the best they could manage thanks to a packed Court of Cassation docket.
Despite their less-than-positive experiences with the Egyptian judicial system so far–Shalabi and his fellow judges returned with their May verdict after less than 90 minutes deliberation–Ibrahim and his supporters remain optimistic. Barbara Ibrahim expressed her faith in the ability of the “independent minded and highly qualified” judges of the Court of Cassation. “Despite over a year of unfortunate treatment by State Security Prosecutors, we remain extremely positive that what has happened to Saad does not reflect what this country is about and that this injustice will soon be put right,” she told the Cairo Times.
Their confidence is further boosted by a ruling made by the Court of Cassation last month regarding Military Decree No. 4/1992, the article under which Ibrahim was tried and convicted.
The court ruled that the decree, which outlaws unapproved foreign funding for NGOs, cannot be used by lower courts in non-emergency situations. Without a specific law outlining the penalties involved, application of a sentence based on violation of the military decree would usurp the power of the legislature, the court ruled.
This means that if Ibrahim and his co-defendants are granted a retrial, it will probably be under Law No. 32/1964-which also outlaws unauthorized foreign funding but carries a much lighter sentence than a military decree violation.
According to Barbara Ibrahim, who is allowed to visit her husband for a half-hour every two weeks, Saad’s health has stabilized in recent weeks with the help of several visits from a physical therapist. However, she said, the cause of the cerebral strokes from which he suffers has yet to be identified and further testing is needed.
Ibrahim’s fragile medical condition is among the reasons he has requested a suspension of his sentence during the appeals process. His lawyers have argued that the 62-year-old professor with no criminal record is hardly a flight risk-and he’s banned from travelling anyway. But so far, the suspension of sentence has not been forthcoming.
Meanwhile the international campaign on Ibrahim’s behalf continues, although it has been somewhat overshadowed by the Queen Boat issue. Amnesty International has declared Ibrahim and his colleagues to be prisoners of conscience, and the European Union is sending a delegation to investigate the matter in October.
* From an article in the Cairo Times, August 30th, 2001 by Dina Ramadan and sent by the Free Saad Eddin Ibrahim listserve. Reproduced here with permission.
Developments on NGO Legislation in Iran
By Sahar Maranlou*
After President Mohammad Khatami was elected by more than 20,000,000 of Iranian voters, civil society has found a new practical meaning in Iran. The history of traditional CBOs (community-based organizations) of Iran has demonstrated the very constructive role they can play as a development partners even in very difficult situations, such as war. CBOs and NGOs have shown great potential for mobilizing people’s participation and Khatami has been striving to institutionalize the role of the voluntary sector.
To facilitate people’s participation in the development process through NGOs, the structural and legal constraints had to be removed. One of the key interventions identified was the necessity of drafting, enactment, and implementation of a new law empowering NGOs to play their partnership roles.
Law Reform for Iranian NGOs
An important Consultation Workshop held in Bushehr (26-27 February 1998) became a point of departure. The meeting approved:
- The preparation of a new law for NGOs through the following stages:
- Review of existing legislation and studies on legal issues pertaining to NGOs to determine gaps and make new definitions.
- Consultation with NGOs on legal and procedural problems, especially with respect to registration.
- Gathering information on comparative law dealing with NGOs and identification.
- Conducting public dialogue to benefit from people’s opinions.
- The preparation of guidelines for registration of NGOs using the output of this process.
Drafting a New Law for NGOs
Through a participatory process involving stakeholders at all levels a new NGO law was drafted in cooperation with the Ministry of Interior. NGOs were the primary partners in this process, and the reformists in the government and in the Majlis (Parliament) rallied around this issue. The Ministry of Interior took the lead and in participation with NGO groups drafted a new law. As part of its drafting process, in April 2001, the Ministry together with the Teheran City Council invited experts from several countries to meet in Teheran to discuss international perspectives on regulation of NGOs with interested Iranian NGO and government leaders. The new draft law was published and all NGOs and interested public groups have been invited to comment on the new law and make suggestions.
* Sahar Maranlou is Legal Advisor and Researcher of the Iran NGO Initiative. She can be contacted at email@example.com. The draft law for NGOs is available in English translation in the ICNL database.
The government has accepted in principle the recommendations of the Ben Basat Commission on tax reform (see IJNL Volume 3 Issue 1, September 2000), and has started to enact the laws required to implement the proposals. It is currently envisaged that the new tax on estates and gifts will involve:
- a 10% estate tax on the value of estates of Israeli residents exceeding a threshold of NIS 2 million, except to thee extent that the threshold has previously been used to exempt lifetime gifts; and
- a 10% gift tax on gifts by resident individual exceeding a cumulative threshold of NIS 2 million.
Assets transferred to a trust will not be treated as gifts, but will be added to the value of a taxable estate. There is an annual exemption for small gifts up to NIS 50,000. Estate tax on donations to public institutions will be refunded.
Auditor’s Report for Israeli NGOs
ICNL has recently received the English translation of the Instructions for Auditors of Non-Profit Organizations published by the Ministry of the Interior, Registrar of Non-Profit Organizations, in 1999. These Instructions describe how auditors of Amutot (the Hebrew term for not-for-profit organizations) should carry out their audits. The instructions describe the obligations of the auditor as follows:
” The task of the auditor is to verify the fitting nature of activities run by non-profit organizations and the suitability of persons running such orgnizations. These issues should be decided in accordance with the following principles:
- Activities do not infringe upon existing laws, particularly the Law of Non-Profit Organizations.
- Proper management, fiscal responsibility, fairness and honesty.
- Activities must be directed towards realizing the goals of the organization.”
ICNL is grateful to Amiram Bogot, the Registrar of Amutot and an Israeli lawyer, for providing the English translation.