Amnesty International report criticizes Egypt’s NGO restrictions

Amnesty International deeply criticized Thursday a letter from Egyptian authorities to an NGO requiring it not to engage into contacts with foreign organizations.

Amnesty said the Egyptian Organization for Human Rights had received a letter from the Insurance and Social Affairs Ministry that stated no “local entity” is permitted to engage with “international entities” in any way without the permission of the “security bodies.”

“NGOs in Egypt already face staggering restrictions, but this instruction is a new low,” said Hassiba Hadj Sahraoui, Amnesty International deputy director for the Middle East and North Africa. “It is a disturbing indicator of what may lie ahead for human rights groups in the government’s new law.”

In late 2011, Egyptian authorities staged a crackdown against several NGOs over allegations of illegal foreign funding, drawing criticism from human rights advocates.

“The authorities must stop using independent civil society organizations as scapegoats for all the ills of Egypt,” said Sahraoui. “Banning contacts with international ‘entities’ invokes Mubarak-era practices that the current President had pledged to break with.”

The ministry had finalized a draft law regulating the establishment and funding of NGOs, which is to be presented to Parliament for approval. The draft received criticism for its allegedly restrictive approach.

The draft law bans NGOs from taking part in political activities, and comprises articles that may considerably restrict their scope of work, particularly foreign organizations.

About 40,000 NGOs would be required to legalize their status and address funding issues retroactively.

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