Based on a statement by the Social Solidarity Ministry, the deadline for NGO’s has been extended for another 30 working days, from September 28 until November 10, 2014. This decision is the result of several requests by the National Council for Human Rights, the General Union for Nongovernmental Organizations and other civil society institutions.
In a statement on Saturday, international human rights organizations warned that the September 2 deadline the Egyptian government originally set for non-governmental organizations to register under a Mubarak-era law could mark the beginning of the end for independent civil society in Egypt.
The statement was signed by Human Rights Watch, The Euro-Mediterranean Human Rights Network and 43 other national and international human rights organizations.
The Ministry of Social Solidarity had issued an ultimatum to over 40,000 NGOs in Egypt in July, instructing them to register under law 84 (2002) before September 4. The organizations complained that the law violated the independence of NGOs and objected to a new proposed law, which imposes even further restrictions and punitive measures on NGOs.
“We today face the very real prospect that in a matter of days authorities will effectively shut down what remains of independent civil society in Egypt, long considered one of the most vibrant in the Arab region,” said Michel Tubiana, president of the Euro-Mediterranean Human Rights Network. “This should not only ring alarm bells in Egypt, but among all those concerned about the future of civil society and human rights throughout the world.”
To avoid the Mubarak regime’s restrictive NGO regulations, several organizations are registered as law firms or non-profit companies instead of organizations that fall under the NGO law. These organizations now face closure and prosecution if they fail to register within the designated time period.
The old law that is being revived gives the government the power to control the activity of any non-governmental organization and to shut it down with no clear criteria for doing so.
The statement says the government’s requirement is a way to “orchestrate a witch hunt” against NGOs and force them to surrender their independence or shut down.
The new NGO draft law that is currently being discussed by the government permits authorities to shut down any Egyptian independent group, pending a court order, or refuse to license new groups on vague grounds of harming “national unity.”
In a statement issued by Amnesty International on Sunday, the organization warned of the approaching deadline.
“The looming deadline sounds very much like a death sentence for independent Egyptian NGOs. The authorities’ ultimatum is not about enabling NGOs to operate and instead paves the way for the closure of those that are critical of the government,” said Hassiba Hadj Sahraoui, Amnesty International’s deputy director for the Middle East and North Africa.