The verdict and severe sentences recently handed down by an Egyptian court against Egyptian and foreign NGO workers are a case for grave concern. More than 40 NGO representatives from internationally renowned organizations received fines and prison sentences up to 5 years for breaches of the law regulating NGOs in Egypt. Moreover, their offices were closed and their assets confiscated.
This verdict against individuals committed to supporting democracy, fundamental rights and cultural dialogue in Egypt, sends a negative message to the work of the entire Egyptian civil society that plays a vital role in the on-going democratic transition. I urge the Egyptian authorities to work closely together with the NGO and other stakeholders in order to create conditions under which the principle of the freedom of association is guaranteed and a vibrant civil society can flourish.
The verdict also comes at a critical moment for the future work of the NGOs in Egypt as the Shura Council currently discusses a new NGO-law. The latest draft still includes elements that could put unnecessary constraints on the work of the civil society in Egypt. It is important that the Egyptian government ensures, that a new NGO-law, fully in line with international standards and Egypt’s obligations, will be adopted in Egypt.