Law on Associations

Country Reports: Middle East and North Africa

The International Journal
of Not-for-Profit Law

Volume 2, Issue 4, June 2000


Legal Framework: Egyptian Court Strikes Down Controversial Law

On June 3, the Egyptian Supreme Constitutional Court invalidated Law 153 of 1999, which has been the target of protest by human rights groups and the NGO community generally since its passage last May.

The Court ruled that Law 153 to be unconstitutional based on the procedure by which it was passed and also on its substantive content. The Court found that the Law had not been presented to the upper house of the Egyptian Parliament, the Shura Council, before its passage in the lower house. The Egyptian constitution requires that draft laws concerning matters “complimentary to the constitution” be considered by the Shura Council before being referred to the lower house. The Court also objected to the provision of the law which referred disputes between the government and NGOs to courts of first instance, stating that such disputes should instead be referred to administrative courts.

Although reaction to the decision in the NGO community has been positive, the decision leaves NGOs unsure of their legal status. The government has indicated that NGOs will now be governed by Law 32 of 1964, the law which Law 153 replaced. However, because decisions of the Supreme Constitutional Court are not retroactive, organizations that registered under Law 153 will not be affected by the ruling. At the moment, it is unclear what law governs NGOs in Egypt.

Egyptian Intellectual Detained for Receiving Foreign Funds

Dr. Saad Eddin Ibrahim, professor of sociology at the American University in Cairo and founder and director of the Ibn Khaldun Center for Developmental Research, was arrested on July 1 and charged with receiving funds from foreign sources and attempting to tarnish Egypt’s reputation. Professor Ibrahim, who was charged under Military Decree 4/1992, could face up to 15 years in prison if convicted.

Among the activities cited as reasons for Ibrahim’s arrest is the receipt of funding from the European Union to film a documentary. Although the stated purpose of the documentary was to encourage people to vote in the upcoming parliamentary elections, the government charged that the film was insulting to the regime. Ibrahim is also charged with receiving foreign money to report on the internal situation in Egypt and other countries.

Professor Ibrahim’s arrest is reminiscent of the arrest of Mr. Hafez Abu Saada, whose arrest on similar charges was reported in Volume 2, Issue 3 of IJNL. Coincidentally, Mr. Abu Saada has recently joined Professor Ibrahim’s legal team.