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The Egyptian Organization for Human Rights

Assassination of Civil Society Organizations

Cairo, 22 June 1999 

The EOHR issues today a follow up to its previous report on the draft
associations law, which was published during the discussion of the law by
the People's Assembly. The new report includes EOHR's views on the final
version of the law, Law 153 of 1999, following its ratification by the
President of the Republic on 27 May 1999. The report aims to clarify the
organization's stand on the new law and to explain to the public opinion
its refusal of the new constraints added to the law, which aim mainly to
paralyze civil society organizations.

The report, which is based on an objective analysis of the articles of the
law, is divided into three parts. The first part deals with the
non-constitutionality of some articles, particularly article eleven, one of
the basic articles in the law. Article 55 of the Egyptian Constitution of
1971 prohibits the establishment of organizations that engage in three
specific activitiesmilitary, clandestine and hostile to the social
system. Also, the first paragraph of article 56 stipulates that "The
creation of syndicates and unions on a democratic basis is a right
guaranteed by law, and should have a moral entity." Therefore, the
legislature cannot prohibit activities other than those already mentioned
in the Constitution. Article 11 of the new law has added new prohibitions,
such as activities that threaten national unity, violate public order or
moral codes, or those which result in discrimination between citizens on
the basis of gender, religion, language or belief. These are elastic
expressions that can be interpreted according to the will or the interests
of the administrative authorities. However, the most crucial is the
prohibition to engage in any political or unionist activities outside the
framework of political parties, syndicates and unions. Until the issuance
of the executive regulations and in the absence of a clear and objective
definition of what are the political and unionist activities practiced by
civil society organizations, specially human rights ones, the official
explanations given to this paragraph have been contradictory. At any rate,
the article constitutes an important constraint given that the nature of
the work of these organizations is public, and public work is by nature

The second part of the report aims to clarify the non-democratic nature of
the law, as many of its articles constitute a clear interference by the
administration in the jurisdiction of the general assemblies. The
administrative authority has the right to call for a general assembly
meeting and to appoint a general supervisor for the organization who will
have the authority of a board of directors. The organization is obliged to
obtain the administration's approval on its statutes, and to send copies of
the documents and decisions of the general assembly to the administrative
body. The law also gives the Minister of Social Affairs the right to
appoint those entitled to go to the organization's offices and review its
documents. In short, the law gives the administration complete control over
the board of directors, from objecting to the inclusion of certain board
members to rejecting the board's decisions and dissolving the organization
itself by a court order. 

The law also cancels the main authority of the general assembly regarding
the definition of the organization's activities and the sources of finance.
It has intentionally transferred the jurisdiction of the administrative
court, noted for the speediness and objectivity of its rulings, in matters
concerning NGOs to the civil courts. The law has also empowered the
President of the Republic to interfere in the formation of the general
union of civil organizations by appointing the president and one third of
its members and not requiring free elections to form the union. 

It should be noted that the law contains a clear assassination order for
the NGO in case of violations committed by the board of directors, and it
fails to differentiate between the organization and the behavious of the
board members. Further, the law broadens its jurisdiction by including
non-civil society organizations, which can be dissolved if they fail to
reorganize themselves to comply with the stipulations of the new law. Other
stipulations include the need for NGOs to have an office prior to their
establishment, the approval of the Prime Minister for public servants
wishing to be involved with an NGO and for the implementation of the
exemptions mentioned in the law, with all the bureaucratic difficulties
this implies, as well as the rigth to withdraw the right of NGOs to be
members of any organization whose headquarters are located outside Egypt.

The last part of the report includes the recommendations of human rights
organizations for a law governing civil society organizations. The
philosophy of such law should be to free civil society organizations by
giving individuals the right to establish organizations on their own free
will according to the law and the Constitution. They should also be
empowered to define the activities of the organization and to establish the
regulations organizing their work, giving a wider role to the general
assembly in monitoring the role of the board of directors. Also,
establishing organizations should be made by notification, which means that
the legal identity of the organization exists as soon as the agent of the
founders notifies the administrative body. In case of objection, the
administrative body should be the party required to take the case to court
while the organization should be able to continue with its activities until
the court issues a decision. It should be stressed that the general
assembly is the highest authority concerning the activities, finance,
elections to the board of directors, publication of the annual budget, and
all related matters. 

The EOHR calls on all civil society organizations to show solidarity and to
continue their efforts to cancel this undemocratic law. At the same time,
the organization urges all the concerned parties to start a dialogue aimed
at developing a new law that supports democratic development in Egypt.

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