Parliamentary 25-30 bloc calls on Sisi not to ratify new 'restrictive' NGO law

Ahram Online , Thursday 1 Dec 2016

The 25-30 parliamentary bloc has called on President Abdel-Fattah El-Sisi not to ratify the NGO law approved by the house on Tuesday, and asked the president to return it to parliament for further discussion, Al-Ahram's Arabic website reported.

A press statement issued by the opposition grouping on Wednesday said that "the parliament made changes [to the bill] hastily and without giving enough time to MPs to read the draft or to express their opinions during the discussion session."

The opposition bloc said it welcomed some of the parliament's final amendments which took into consideration some of their observations, but said that other articles in the draft which it perceives as restrictive to civil society were not amended, without giving further details about its proposed changes.

On Tuesday, two-thirds of Egypt's MPs approved the new 89-article law which will regulate the operations of NGOs in the country.

The 25-30 bloc's statement expressed the group's appreciation of fears regarding questions of national security and stated their opposition to any foreign intervention in domestic affairs.

However, the bloc said the approved law will turn hundreds of thousands of civil society workers into "suspects."

The bloc warned that provisions as they stand would impact negatively on the willingness of individuals to participate in serious civil work that develops society, raises awareness, and serves wide sectors which are out of the reach of state services.

Therefore, to be able to draft a law that pushes civil, local, and voluntary work forward and not backward, the bloc called on the president not to approve the NGO law.

MP Haitham El-Hariri, a member of the 25-30 coalition, also issued a statement on his official Facebook page on Tuesday asking President Abdel Fattah El-Sisi not to ratify the law.

El-Hariri has been a vocal critic of the bill.

The law stipulates that the president will be empowered to name the secretary-general of the National Foreign NGOs Regulation Apparatus which will regulate the operations of foreign NGOs in Egypt and monitoring all their sources of funding.

The new body will also supervise all forms of foreign funding dispersed to local NGOs.

The Ministry of Social Solidarity opposed the creation of the new body, arguing that the ministry itself can perform regulatory activities "since it has long experience in this field," but MPs rejected its request.

A government-drafted NGO law was ‎approved by the cabinet at the end of October and ‎referred to parliament on 2 November, but has not been discussed, and all amendments to the parliamentary committee-drafted law by the government were rejected by the committee.


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