Bush Urged to Ask Mubarak to Block New Repressive Law
Freedom House, together with several other human rights and civil liberties organizations, today encouraged President Bush to urge Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak, who is currently visiting the United States, to block a proposed law that would impose excessive restrictions on non-governmental organizations (NGOs) in Egypt.
As the letter states:
"The proposed new law blurs the important distinction between regulation of organizations - a legitimate state interest - and domination of non-governmental groups that would destroy their independent character. In short, the law imposes excessive restrictions that will make it virtually impossible for a non-governmental organization in Egypt to be both legally registered and independent. The Ministry of Social Affairs would have the ability to block nominees for a non-governmental organization's board of directors, (and) the right to dissolve an association and seize its assets without the right of judicial appeal...."
The law also would prohibit NGOs from engaging in "political activity" which could be interpreted as public criticism of the government.
The letter urges President Bush to honor the commitment he made recently during a West Point graduation speech to defend human rights throughout the world, particularly in the Islamic world. It reminds him of the risks involved with the United States being associated "in the eyes of millions of people in the Middle East, with governments that do not respect the rule of law, the rights of women, free spech or religious diversity."
The proposed law comes while Saad Eddin Ibrahim, an Egyptian sociologist and democracy advocate who runs a non-governmental think tank, faces renewed charges stemming from a criminal case brought against him by the government. Dr. Ibrahim has in the past documented human rights abuses and governmental and electoral irregularities in Egypt.
In Freedom House's latest report on Egypt, to be included in its forthcoming annual global survey of Freedom, the country is considered "Not Free." The passage of this new law would impose even harsher restrictions on Egypt's already beleaguered civil society.
The letter to President Bush was endorsed by representatives of a broad-range of US-based NGOs including: the American Bar Association, Democracy Coalition Project, Lawyers Committee for Human Rights, International League for Human Rights, Robert F. Kennedy Memorial, American Center for International Labor Solidarity, International Center for Non-Profit Law, Human Rights Watch, Council for a Community of Democracies, and Amnesty International.
Freedom House is an independent watchdog organization that supports democratic change, monitors the status of freedom around the world, and advocates for democracy and human rights.