Egypt NGO ultimatum expires Monday

Ahram Online, Monday 10 Nov 2014

Government ultimatum for NGOs to register under 'restrictive' law expires on 10 November

A UNHRC session in progress (Photo: Reuters)

A government ultimatum for NGOs to register under a law they say will restrict their activities is due to expire on Monday.

The cabinet says the registration, as per a law passed during the reign of ousted autocrat Hosni Mubarak, is meant to ensure transparency in NGO funding and activities so they are not used as a front for illegal conduct.

The ultimatum was supposed to expire in September but was delayed by 45 days to give more time for NGOs to comply.

NGOs that do not register face harsh criminal charges.

The law took centre stage at Egypt's United Nations Periodic Review (UNPR) in Geneva last week, and was criticised by other countries for being too restrictive.

In the review, Egypt's Deputy Foreign Minister for Human Rights Hisham Badr said the government had been in talks with hundreds of NGOs and was waiting for a new parliament to draft a new law governing their regulation.

He added that the government only gave NGOs a deadline to register according to the current law in an attempt to start a dialogue over adjusting their legal status.

Authorities say a new parliament will be elected before the end of this year. However, an electoral districts law, crucial for the poll, is yet to be issued.

Critics of the NGO law say it allows for the same security surveillance they were subjected to before the 2011 uprising, as well as specifying long jail terms for those who violate the law.

In a statement prior to the UNPR session, seven NGOs cancelled their meetings planned for the sidelines of the Geneva event due to "an environment hostile to the work of NGOs" in Egypt, adding that they feared prosecution back home.

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