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April 30, 2013

Kerry Should Raise NGO Law Proposals with Egyptian Foreign Minister

Washington, D.C. – Today, as Secretary of State John Kerry meets with Egyptian Foreign Minister Mohamed Kamel Amr, Human Rights First urges him to raise concerns about proposed bills that will repress civil society in Egypt. Kerry should publicly condemn the new legislation and make clear that the passage of an NGO law would be a setback for human rights.

“Secretary Kerry must make clear that the United States stands firmly with Egyptian civil society in its struggle to block new laws that limit civil society groups’ ability to fully participate in Egypt’s troubled transition to democracy,” said Human Rights First’s Brian Dooley, who recently returned from Egypt and authored a report recommending steps the U.S. government can take to repair its relationship with Egyptian civil society groups.

Dooley notes that various proposed versions of the new Egyptian legislation would suppress the fundamental freedoms necessary for the functioning of a healthy civil society. Many of the proposals include bringing all NGOs and their funds under government control, as well as subjecting their work to the approval of a committee that includes security services.

Though some activists have been wary of the U.S. government  making statements on human rights abuses in Egypt because these efforts can be exploited by those who want to accuse the United States of interfering in Egyptian domestic affairs, Egyptian human rights groups are urging the U.S. government to publicly decry the proposed law and call for its defeat.

“Speaking out against the law is an opportunity for Kerry to show that he is prepared to criticize President Morsi and stand with civil society,” Dooley observed. “He can demonstrate that U.S. interests in Egypt go beyond its own NGOs and beyond the particular interest of the ‘foreign funding’ case, where several U.S government-funded democracy groups had their offices raided in December 2011. The United States should urge the adoption of a new NGO law that complies with international human rights standards and enables NGOs to receive financial support from sources independent of the government, including international sources. It should encourage the draft legislation proposed by 56 NGOs several months ago as the starting point for this process.”

To speak with Dooley, please contact Brenda Bowser Soder at bowsersoderb@humanrightsfirst.org or 202-370-3323.