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UN Rapporteur criticises NGO situation in Egypt

Ahram Online , Tuesday 11 Oct 2016

The United Nations expressed its concern on Tuesday about "the growing restrictions imposed on civil society in Egypt and the targeting of human rights defenders and human rights organizations," UN Special Rapporteur on freedom of peaceful assembly and of association Maina Kiai said in a press statement.

In September, an Egyptian court upheld an asset freeze against five prominent Egyptian rights activists over accusations of receiving illegal foreign funding with the aim of “destabilising the country” following the 2011 uprising.

“[Egypt’s] government seems to be systematically attacking civil society in an effort to silence its voice,” Kiai said in the statement.

“These new developments intervene in a context of a continuing crackdown on human rights defenders and civil society organisations in Egypt since the reopening of the 2011 NGO case, known as the ‘173 foreign funding case,’ in which a number of human rights defenders and heads of civil society organisations are being investigated.”

Since late 2011, a number of rights activists have been facing charges of illegally receiving foreign funding for their NGOs, but case number 173/2011 had been put on hold until recently.

The UN Rapporteur voiced criticism of a new draft NGO bill, which was approved by the cabinet in early September, saying that it “raises further questions about the compatibility of the Egyptian legislation with its international human rights obligations.”

The statement called on the government “to ensure the compliance of the NGO draft law with international law standards, following a transparent consultation process with civil society organisations.”

Earlier this year, Egyptian authorities froze the assets of several human rights activists and NGOs in the country.

The activists, who were also banned from travel, include Hossam Bahgat, founder of the Egyptian Initiative for Personal Rights (EIPR), Gamal Eid, founder of the Arab Network for Human Rights Information, Bahey El-Din Hassan, director of the Cairo Institute for Human Rights Studies (CIHRS) and three staff members of the NGO Nazra for Feminist Studies.

The asset freeze also applies to the Hisham Mubarak Law Centre and its director Mostafa El-Hassan, as well as the Egyptian Centre for the Right to Education and its director Abdel-Hafiz Tayel.

An Egyptian administrative court ruled in early September that NGOs have the right to receive foreign funding after obtaining approval from authorities.

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