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The Egyptian Organization for Human Rights

Press Statement by Human Rights Organizations

In Response to the Incriminating Mentality
Respecting Human rights is a National Security Priority

26 May 1999

The undersigned organizations have followed the discussions held in the
People's Assembly on the new draft law organizing the activities of
non-governmental organizations (NGOs), which started yesterday, Tuesday 25
May 1999. We express our strong concern about the incriminating mentality
that dominated the discussions of the representatives of the government and
the ruling party towards human rights organizations, and about the attempts
to pass the law without proper and due procedures. At the same time, we
would like to express our gratitude to the representatives of the
opposition parties and the independent deputies for their solidarity with
civil society organizations in their attempt to restore democratic
principles in Egypt. We also appreciate the stance of the activists of
civil society organizations who demonstrated yesterday in front of the
People's Assembly to express their refusal of the new law.

The Assembly's discussions began with strong divergence of views where the
two opposing sides spoke different languages. The representatives of the
government expressed their approval of the law on grounds of maintaining
national security, a language traditionally used to impose the government's
will. The underlying message of this argument is that blowing the cover of
their un-human rights practices against the citizens constitutes a threat
to the higher interests of the country. This was clearly seen in the
language used by the leader of the majority when he described the reports
of human rights organizations on the draft law as illegal publications. The
general secretary of the Assembly's religious committee, and chair of the
committee in charge of drafting the law, described the reports as"illegal
publications that carry the fingerprints of suspected bodies working in the

Confronting this incriminating mentality, the representatives of the
opposition parties expressed their refusal to some of the articles of the
law in a democratic language. They tried to draw the attention of the
Assembly to the importance of protecting civil society organizations,
abiding by the constitution, and respecting international treaties to which
Egypt is a signatory party. This language was used by the representatives
of Al-Wafd, Al-Amal, Nasserist, Al-Ahrar and Tagammu parties and the
independent deputies. Below are the main criticisms raised against the law

The draft law came totally different to what was agreed during the
consultation meetings held between the representatives of civil society and
those of the government for a period of over 18 months. 
The draft law incriminates ­without a clear reason­ many of the activities
practiced by NGOs. It therefore reflects the government's intention to
strike civil society organizations.
The draft law increases the powers of the administration to intervene in
the affairs of civil society organizations.
The draft law is considered complementary to the Constitution, which in
article 55 deals with the right of citizens to form associations.
Therefore, the draft should be reviewed by the Shura Council before being
discussed in the Parliament.
The unnecessary speed with which the law was presented to the deputies and
the Cabinet's request to approve it within a 10-day period. 

While expressing their gratitude to the opposition deputies for protecting
democracy and civil society as a whole in Egypt, the civil society
organizations also reiterate their deep worry at the depiction of human
rights organizations as "bodies working in the dark". They also draw
attention to the danger of the incriminating mentality adopted by the
government when dealing with civil society organizations in general, such
as political parties, syndicates and associations, and human rights
organizations in particular.

Finally, the undersigned human rights organizations stress that respecting
human rights should be a national security priority and refuse the use of
terms such as "national security", "higher interests of the country" by the
representatives of the government while talking about human rights


1-	Egyptian Organization for Human Rights
2-	Cairo Center for Human Rights Studies
3-	Group for Democratic Development 
4-	Center for Human Rights Legal Aid
5-	Arab Center for the Independence of the Judiciary and the Legal
6-	Arab Program for Human Rights Activists 
7-	Human Rights Center for the Assistance of Prisoners 
8-	Land Center for Human Rights
9-	Nadim Center for Psychological Rehabilitation 
10- Trade Union and Labor Services Center
11- Egyptian Center for Women's Rights

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This document is published online by Derechos Human Rights. Derechos works against violations to human rights and humanitarian law all over the world.