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Egypt criticises 'foreign' comments on the state of NGOs in the country

Egypt's foreign ministry said that comments criticising the government's treatment of NGOs were characterised with 'inconsistent generalisation and a lack of evidence that supports such allegations'

Ahram Online , Thursday 24 Mar 2016
File Photo: Egyptian Foreign Minister Sameh Shoukry (Photo: Reuters)

Egypt's foreign ministry criticised on Thursday statements by "foreign officials" made over the reopening of investigations into several Egyptian NGOs for allegedly receiving funds illegally from foreign governments and institutions.

In an official statement, the foreign ministry said that the comments were characterised with "inconsistent generalisation and a lack of evidence that supports such allegations."

The statement comes one day after UK Foreign Office Minister for North Africa Tobias Ellwood expressed his "deep concerns" over what he described as the growing restriction on civil society in Egypt, a statement by the British embassy in Cairo quoted him as saying.

Ellwood encouraged Egypt's government on Wednesday to work with civil society to implement the rights guaranteed by the country's constitution and to allow non-governmental organisations to operate freely.

On Thursday, a Cairo court postponed issuing a ruling on the freezing of assets of several Egyptian human rights activists to 20 April after a request by the prosecution.

Last week, a judicial committee overseeing an investigation into the alleged illegal funding of NGOs issued a decision to freeze the assets of four Egyptian human rights activists and their families, including renowned activists Hossam Bahgat and Gamal Eid.

The case dates back to 2011, when the Egyptian Ministry of Justice accused several NGOs of illegally receiving funds from foreign governments and institutions based on reports issued at the time by the National Security Agency and the General Intelligence Service.

Global rights group Amnesty International issued a statement yesterday criticising the case involving NGOs.  

"Egypt’s civil society is being treated like an enemy of the state, rather than a partner for reform and progress,” Amnesty said.

The Egyptian foreign ministry statement said that the comments on the atmosphere for NGOs in Egypt "aims to perpetuate false impressions over the approach of the Egyptian government regarding foreign funding for NGOs."

"The people behind the statements have ignored the fact that Egypt's refusal to provide foreign funding applied to only 7 percent of NGOs in 2015, while the other NGOs have received about $100 million legally in the same year, which proves that there is no restriction on the work of civil society organisations in Egypt"

The Egyptian foreign ministry reiterated Egypt's full commitment to supporting the work of NGOs and foreign institutions that work "legally" in the country in accordance with Law 84 of 2002, stressing its commitment to fulfil its obligations under international human rights standards.

"Egypt demands that all countries and international organisations respect the country's laws and not interfere in domestic affairs or attempt to influence the justice system," the statement added.

"Such allegations raise questions over the reasons behind such an attitude, and whether it is really intended is to protect rights and freedoms or protect certain people or groups... in an attempt to undermine and shake the country's stability." 

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