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The Egyptian Organization for Human Rights

Egypt Awaits Democratic Reforms

Statement by Egyptian human rights organizations

14 May 1999

The undersigned human rights organizations express their deep concern
regarding the Cabinet of Ministers' approval of the Bill on Associations
and Private Institutions.
The Bill places enormous restrictions on NGO and voluntary work in
Egypt. It gives the Executive Branch control over the activities,
membership, and funding of associations, and ignores repeated criticism
put forward by development associations and human rights organizations.

This Bill is the latest in a series of restrictive measures carried out
by the government  that have left most professional syndicates paralysed
(Law 100/1993), confined political parties to their premises, and
deprived them of the right to undertake any public activities (Law
40/1977). Journalists have also not been sparedafter their struggle to
repeal Law 93/1995, the past year has witnessed the imprisonment of four
journalists for the first time since 1952, the closure of independent
newspapers, bans on printing some newspapers and magazines, and the
right to publish newspapers has been further restricted by Law 3/1998,
requiring the Cabinet of Ministers' approval for any new licenses. The
Emergency Law, in force since October 1981, has in practice become a new

Furthermore, the Bill will be voted on by a parliament that is
impossible to consider legitimate. The present parliament came to power
through the worst elections ever held in the modern history of Egypt
the court of Cassation reports on the irregularities of those elections
provide only one of the many proofs of this.

The Bill, when placed in the current political context, is merely a
reflection of the government's general intention to restrict further any
form of independent association, be it political parties, unions,
professional syndicates, or NGOs.

The undersigned organizations call on the President of the Republic, in
his capacity as the head of the Executive Branch, and the leader of the
ruling party that controls over 90 percent of the People's Assembly, to
start his fourth term in office with a declaration of democratic
reforms. Furthermore, the undersigned organizations call on the
President of the Republic to consider immediately the following

*Lifting the State of Emergency
*Halting all procedural and legal restrictions that have resulted in
professional syndicates effectively becoming paralysed
*Halting the use of custodial penalties in cases involving journalists
accused of libel and defamation, and other offences related to their
work, and the drafting of new press laws to replace the current ones,
with the assistance of the Journalists Syndicate
*Removing all obstacles facing the activities of political parties, and
allowing the establishment of new political parties
*Instructing the Ministry of the Interior to stop the use of torture
immediately, and ordering the Prosecutor General to investigate
independently all torture allegations and bring those involved in such
criminal activities to a speedy trial
*Reconsidering the expected inauguration of the Bill on Associations and
Private Institutions, and open a discussion that considers different
proposals put forward by civil society and human rights organizations.

We call on parties, syndicates, associations, and citizens to work
together for a better tomorrow; for free and fair elections; for the
rule of Law; for the accountability of those in power; and for a state
that respects the rights and freedoms of its people.


Cairo Institutte for Human Rights Studies       (CIHRS)
Center for Human Rights Legal Aid               (CHRLA)
Egyptian Organization for Human Rights          (EOHR)
Group for Democratic Development                (GDD)

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