EIPR: We Will Continue Our Human Rights Work in Egypt

Press Release

21 December 2014

The Egyptian Initiative for Personal Rights today urged the government to end the climate of suspicion and threats currently characterizing its relationship with independent human rights organizations.

The Board of Trustees of EIPR (currently registered as a limited liability company) announced that - though it has long criticized the ambiguities and restrictions of the flawed 2002 NGO law - it has decided to respond to the government’s ultimatum by applying for registration under it. EIPR will, however, continue to work to replace this law with one, which regulates the work of civil society associations in Egypt in a democratic, clear and transparent manner. Like several other organizations, EIPR has sought to engage with the Ministry of Social Solidarity to identify the activities that are subject to the current NGO law, but thus far the government has declined to meet with them, preferring instead to talk about its plans through the mass media.

The Board has come to its decision despite numerous reservations on the existing law which, in its execution, cements full government control of civil associations’ activities and funding, permits government to appoint members of NGO boards and even to dissolve NGOs without a court order. The law also threatens NGO staff with custodial sentences for administrative errors. In 2010 government itself recognized the flawed nature of this law and promised the UN Human Rights Council to amend it. The law now contravenes Egypt’s 2014 constitution, which upholds the right of all citizens to form and operate associations after simply notifying the relevant authorities.

EIPR and other independent rights organizations have repeatedly called for a democratic law, consistent with Egypt’s Constitution and its international commitments; a law that would give society full access to the expenditure of NGOs while disallowing government interference in their activities as long as they remain within the bounds of the Constitution. But successive governments over the past years have ignored these calls and, in fact, have issued amendments to the Penal Code that threaten civil society activists with long prison sentences under totally ambiguous legal provisions.

EIPR states once again that it will continue to defend the civil and political rights of Egyptians and their right to social justice and a dignified life. It will do this in its current legal form as a limited liability company, acknowledged by the state and in keeping with Egyptian law. EIPR will also seek to register a body under the current NGO law to conduct activities that fall within its provenance and to acquaint itself with the freedoms it may allow.

The Board of Trustees stresses its determination that EIPR continue to monitor human rights violations in police stations, prisons, and other arenas of the criminal justice system. EIPR will also continue to track state policies meant to guarantee social and economic justice in education, health care and housing in accordance with the Constitution and Egypt’s internationally undertaken commitments.

The Board of Trustees deplores the recent smear campaigns and security threats against EIPR and other independent organizations working to improve human rights in Egypt. Some organizations, the Board says, have been subject to police raids and staff have been harassed, detained and even imprisoned on false charges. Yara Sallam, EIPR’s officer for transitional justice, is now serving a 3-year prison sentence. She and others have lost their freedom because of repressive laws and questionable judicial procedure.

EIPR’s Board of Trustees notes that the independent work of human rights organizations contributes greatly to confronting terrorism within the bounds of the law, it amplifies the voice of poor and marginalized communities seeking their rights, and it works to ensure that the executive operates within the boundaries of the laws it swore to uphold. The Board directs the government’s attention to the dozens of reform policies and draft laws that EIPR and other independent organizations have proposed in various fields from police reform to health insurance and including the right to medicine (especially for the millions of Egyptians suffering from Hepatitis C).

The Egyptian Initiative for Personal Rights, as it decides today to continue the work it started 12 years ago, announces the start of a new stage in this work. We hope that our strategies will enable us to continue to expose, confront, and document human rights abuses in Egypt, to propose recommendations to end these abuses, and to fight all government plans and restrictions aimed at halting this vital national effort and scaring Egyptians from being involved in it.

At this moment, when Egypt is witnessing its worst crisis of human rights and the rule of law in decades, EIPR’s Board of Trustees believe that confronting the crisis is the duty of everyone who took part in the revolution of January 25 and in the struggle before and after it – which was always in demand of freedom, dignity, and social justice.