Protesters in Tahrir Square Egypt Cairo 311 (R).
(photo credit: Reuters)
CAIRO - A law drafted by the Egyptian presidency for
regulating non-governmental organizations dashes hopes for a free civil society
after the 2011 uprising against Hosni Mubarak, Human Rights Watch said on
Egyptian President Mohamed Morsi has said the bill submitted to the
Muslim Brotherhood-led parliament on Wednesday would liberate a civil society
that was stifled by Mubarak, who was toppled by an uprising ignited by democracy
Human Rights Watch said the new draft was "hostile to the very
notion of independent civil society".
"This draft law dashes all hopes
that independent groups could operate freely and independently after the
revolution," said Sarah Leah Whitson, Middle East and North Africa director at
Human Rights Watch.
"Egypt's proposed NGO law would allow the government
free rein to cut off funding and halt activities of groups that it finds
inconvenient," she added in a statement.
The presidency presented the law
this week in an effort to ease concerns about earlier drafts criticized by the
United States and the European Union for the restrictions they would have placed
on civic activism.
Human Rights Watch identified some improvements in the
law, specifically a change that will no longer consider NGO finances as public
funds. But the latest draft fell far short of Egypt's international human rights
obligations, it said.
It cited flaws including provisions that would
allow the government and its security agencies to arbitrarily restrict civil
society groups and empower the government to deny access to domestic and
Since Mubarak was deposed, restrictions on civil
society have remained a source of friction with Western states that help to
finance non-government organizations working on human rights and economic,
social and political development.
Last year, under the temporary rule of
the army generals who assumed power from Mubarak, an investigation into the work
of international NGOs, some of them US-based, sparked a crisis in ties between
the United States and Egypt.