Protect Freedom of Association in Egypt, IBAHRI Says
January 19, 2012
By: Rebecca Aaberg | Printer Friendly
In a January 18 press release, the International Bar Association’s Human Rights Institute (IBAHRI) called on the new Egyptian parliament to reform laws restricting the “basic human right” of freedom of association. Egypt’s Law on Non-Governmental Associations (2002) has been used by the government to restrict non-governmental organizations’ (NGOs) ability to hold meetings and criminalizes the unauthorized use of foreign funding. Under this law, Egyptian security forces participated in a raid of seven NGOs, many funded internationally, on December 29, 2011. According to the IBAHRI, international agreements which support freedom of association such as Article 22 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights and Article 24 of the Arab Charter on Human Rights must be respected by Egyptian authorities. “We emphatically urge the Egyptian authorities to respect their international obligations, to conduct a full and impartial investigation into the events of 29 December 2011 and ensure NGOs are not exposed to further harassment or intimidation,” IBAHRI Co-Chair Sternford Moyo stated in the organization’s press release.
The December 29 raid, led by 14 security officers, including a public prosecutor, resulted in the loss of “documents, receipts, flip-charters, computer, personal staff laptops, and cameras,” after which NGO staff members were locked inside their offices, Ahram reported. Targeted organizations included United States (US) based groups such as the National Democratic Institute, the International Republican Institute, and Freedom House, as well as the Germany-based Konrad-Adenauer-Stiftung Foundation in addition to Egyptian NGOs.
Current Egyptian laws require NGOs to obtain licenses for operation and approval for foreign funding. The Egyptian state media claimed that NGOs had paid 750 illiterate people and laborers $200 per day with $100 million in unauthorized funds, implying organizations paid people to protest against the government. Although authorities in Egypt have said that investigations are directed at organizations receiving funding illegally, NGOs claim that the government is acting to block criticism of the military. In response to the December 29 raid and the investigation of NGO funding sources by the Egyptian government, a human rights group formed from 30 NGOs that were not raided called the attack a “smear campaign,” the New York Times reported.
The US Department of State called on Egyptian authorities “to immediately end the harassment of NGO staff, return all property [taken in the December 29 raid] and resolve this issue.” The New York Times additionally reported that the $1.3 billion given annually to Egypt by the US is now in question because of a new democracy certification process by the US State Department. Freedom House’s Charles Dunne encouraged the US to continue limiting funding to Egypt: "In the current fiscal environment, the United States must not subsidize authoritarianism in Egypt while the Egyptian government is preventing NGOs from implementing democracy and human rights projects subsidized by the US taxpayer."
Please see below for the full statement from IBAHRI:
IBAHRI urges new Egyptian parliament to reform freedom of association laws without delay
The International Bar Association’s Human Rights Institute (IBAHRI) calls on Egypt’s newly elected Parliament to protect by law, and respect in practice, the right of freedom of association of Egypt’s citizens. The IBAHRI considers it imperative that legislative reform with regard to freedom of association – a basic human right – be prioritised by Parliament.
In particular, the IBAHRI calls for Egypt’s Parliament to prioritise reforming the Law on Non-Governmental Associations (Law No. 84 of 2002), which impedes the ability of non-governmental organisations (NGOs) to recruit staff, to elect their leadership, hold meetings and receive foreign funding. While such restrictions are widely viewed as obstructing the functioning of independent civil society groups, failure to respect the Law is deemed a criminal offence.
The IBAHRI call comes amid condemnation of, and concerns about, recent raids by Egyptian security forces of at least seven NGOs on 29 December 2011 which included the offices of: the Budgetary and Human Rights Observatory, the Future Centre for Judicial Studies, the National Democratic Institute, the International Republic Institute, Freedom House, the Konrad-Adenauer-Stiftung Foundation and the Arab Center for Independence of the Judiciary and Legal Profession – an organisation working to defend the independence of the judiciary and the legal profession in the Arab Regions.
Sternford Moyo, IBAHRI Co-Chair, comments, ‘Egypt is party to a number of international instruments which confer on it an obligation to respect the well-established right to freedom of association. In particular, Article 22 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights and Article 24 of the Arab Charter on Human Rights.’ He added, ‘Freedom of association is essential to the establishment of genuine democracy and we emphatically urge the Egyptian authorities to respect their international obligations, to conduct a full and impartial investigation into the events of 29 December 2011 and ensure NGOs are not exposed to further harassment or intimidation.’
For further information please contact:
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CBS – Egypt Forces Raid Pro-Democracy Offices
International Bar Association's Human Rights Institute - IBAHRI Urges New Egyptian Parliament to Reform Freedom of Association Laws without Delay
New York Times - Egypt Vows to End Crackdown on Nonprofits