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June 19, 2015

Crackdown on Egyptian Civil Society Continues

By Olivia Huzenis

The government crackdown on civil society in Egypt is intensifying. On June 9, Egyptian government investigators visited the Cairo Institute for Human Rights Studies (CIHRS), a leading human rights organization, and demanded that it produce documentation of activities and financial records.

This sort of intimidation is not a new development in Egypt. Over the past few years, government authorities have harassed independent NGOs and organizations that receive foreign funding seeking to enforce the restrictive 2002 Law on Associations, which severely curtails the operating capabilities of these organizations. The law, which dates back to the Mubarak era, subjects these organizations to effective government control.

Egyptian investigators and prosecutors are building criminal cases against those deemed non-compliant with the law, threatening heavy fines and lengthy prison sentences. Most alarmingly, these coercive policies have already forced the closure of some organizations while prompting others to significantly limit their activities.

The campaign against NGOs in Egypt threatens to destroy the foundation of independent civil society. Human rights defenders continue to be targeted and punished. These actions directly contradict the promises Egypt government leaders made at the United Nations Human Rights Council in 2015, where they pledged to uphold international standards and respect the autonomy of civil society.

In response to these abuses, Human Rights First, along with a broad coalition of human rights organizations, issued a statement that calls for dismantling of the Law on Associations in favor of a law that aligns with international human rights standards and preserves the autonomy of civil society. The statement demands legislative reforms and action by the international community, particularly the U.N. Human Rights Council, to condemn these restrictive measures.