Egyptian NGO contests ruling army's investment law

Ahram Online, Thursday 23 Feb 2012

Local rights group lodges complaint with parliament, demanding recently-passed investor reconciliation law be revoked

One of the largest land-related disputes involves the $3bn Madinaty project on the outskirts of Cairo (Photo: Al-Ahram)

An Egyptian NGO has sent a plea to the country's parliament, demanding the cancelling of a law passed by the Supreme Council for Armed Forces (SCAF) aimed at stimulating investment.

The law, passed early this year, gives the government the right to settle disputes with investors who have profited from public funds or property if they return all the assets they unlawfully acquired.
The Egyptian Initiative for Personal Rights (EIPR), the NGO contesting the law, on Wednesday issued a statement on its website saying the ruling is against the rights of the Egyptian public, as it stipulates that offenders must return the value of the funds as they stood at the time the crime was committed. 
This means does not take into account the change in the value of the assets following their acquisition, EIPR says.
EIPR also criticised the timing of the law, which was passed just over two weeks before Egypt's newly elected parliament convened.
The law was approved by Egypt's interim cabinet earlier in November but was only officially passed by SCAF on 3 January.
"Issuing of this law by a military decree just days before the elected parliament is convened is a explicit abuse of the rule of law," Amr Adly, head of social and economic justice division in EIPR, said in a statement.
This law was not the first to be issued in the days before parliament convened.
Laws regulating Egypt's presidential elections and the appointment of a head to Al-Azhar, Egypt's highest Sunni Muslim authority, were approved shortly in advance of the legislative body's opening session on 23 January.
EIPR claims the law also discriminates between offenders, as investors will be able to settle their cases while their accomplices, who might be public workers, will not have the right to do so.
The NGO also objected to the idea that criminal offenders be pardoned under any form of legal settlement.
"It is a sign of the real intentions of the current government to protect the interest of investors, even at the expense of public funds," Adly said.
The law is applicable to cases in which several members of Hosni Mubarak's former regime are embroiled.
Ex-tourism minister Zoheir Garana faces charges of misallocating land to investors for personal profit, while steel tycoon Ahmed Ezz is accused of unlawfully acquiring operational licences for heavy industy.
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