Egyptian FlagCivic Freedom Monitor: Egypt

Introduction | At a Glance | Key Indicators | International Rankings
Legal Snapshot | Legal Analysis | Reports | News and Additional Resources
Last updated 25 June 2017

Updates: President Sisi recently approved an extremely restrictive new law to govern civil society organizations (CSOs). Law 70 of 2017 on Associations and Other Foundations Working in the Field of Civil Work (English) (Arabic), published in the Official Gazette on May 29, 2017, is one of the most draconian civil society laws adopted in the MENA region if not worldwide. The new law replaces Law 84 of 2002 on Associations and Foundations (English) (Arabic). CSOs of all types in Egypt have one year since the enactment of Law 70 to register under the law and comply with its provisions.

The law was enacted in the context of an ongoing crackdown on civil society and civic space in Egypt. The country is currently under a state of emergency and dozens of media outlets have been shut down by the government, following a series of terrorist attacks. In recent months, numerous civil society leaders have been subjected to travel bans, asset freezes, and criminal interrogations after the government reopened Case No. 173/2011 related to the receipt of foreign funding by CSOs.

Introduction

In early 2011, mass protests across Egypt led to President Hosni Mubarak’s removal from power. Since then, the country has undergone years of tumult, with numerous annulled elections, changes in governing authority, and uncertainty in the legal framework. Under the auspices of an interim government installed by the military in the summer of 2013, a new Egyptian constitution was finalized and approved by referendum in January 2014. Abdel Fattah el-Sisi was elected president in May 2014, and a new parliament was elected in December 2015.

From 2002 until 2017, civil society in Egypt was governed by the provisions of the Law on Associations and Community Foundations (Law 84 of 2002) (English) (Arabic) and the Implementing Regulation for Law 84 of 2002 (Ministry of Social Affairs [Now Ministry of Social Solidarity] Decree 178 of 2002) (English) (Arabic). Despite the highly restrictive nature of these laws, the civil society sector expanded during this time and was relatively large and vibrant when the 2011 Revolution began. In effect, the restrictive legal framework in Egypt did not serve to ban civil society outright but rather gave enormous discretionary powers to the Ministry of Social Solidarity and other government agencies. In practice, this authority was brought to bear against organizations and individuals that crossed the government’s ‘red lines’ in pushing for social reform and political liberalization.

Accordingly, numerous organizations involved in research and advocacy around human rights declined to register as associations under Law 84, forming instead as civil companies or law firms. Particularly after the 2011 Revolution, various parties sought to replace Law 84: Civil society aimed to replace it with a more enabling law, while different government ministries and parliamentary committees proposed a series of draft laws imposing new restrictive measures – targeting in particular CSO funding and operations. The most draconian of these draft laws emerged in the fall of 2016. Unlike previous draft laws, the Law on Associations and Other Foundations Working in the Field of Civil Work (English) (Arabic) had not been shared with the public nor with any independent civil society organizations prior to its publication in a newspaper in mid-November, when Parliament first approved the law in a rushed session. It was subsequently approved by Parliament in a final vote on November 29. Domestic and international CSOs, governments, and UN entities roundly condemned the restrictive draft law and called on President el-Sisi to refrain from signing it. Nonetheless, almost six months later Sisi ratified the law, enacting Law 70 of 2017 to regulate the registration and operation of all civil society entities in Egypt.    

At the same time, in the several years leading up to the passage of Law 70, the government engaged in an overt crackdown on civil society, with a focus on organizations engaged in human rights work. In June 2013, a criminal court sentenced to prison forty-three NGO employees, including sixteen Americans, from five international NGOs for receiving foreign funding without permission. The court also ordered that the five NGOs cease operations in Egypt and that their funds be confiscated. In early 2016, the government announced that it had reopened that criminal action, Case Number 173/2011, this time focusing on Egyptian organizations that had received funding from outside Egypt. Throughout 2016 and into 2017, a number of Egypt’s most prominent civil society leaders were banned from travel in connection with the case, and several had their personal and organizational assets frozen under court order. Others were detained and interrogated. The case remains one of many instruments used by the state against members of Egypt’s civil society, illustrating a broad governmental campaign to restrict civic freedoms and control dissent.

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At a Glance

Organizational Forms Associations and foundations
Registration Body Ministry of Social Solidarity (domestic associations and foundations)
National Regulatory Agency for the Work of Foreign Non-Governmental Organizations (foreign non-governmental organizations)
Approximate Number 47,312 (2016 estimate). This number from the Ministry of Social Solidarity refers to associations and foundations registered under Law 84 of 2002.
Barriers to Entry Registration is mandatory for all entities that practice “civil work,” defined in the law as non-profit activities that aim to achieve societal development. Informal (unregistered) associations and foundations are prohibited. Registration is by “notification,” but requires a burdensome submission of extensive documentation, and allows the Ministry broad discretion to reject the registration during a 60-day waiting period.
Barriers to Activities Associations are limited to activities in the fields of development and social welfare, and the activities must align with the Egyptian state’s development plan and priorities. Numerous activities require prior government permission, including conducting field research and opinion polls. The law contains broad prohibitions on activities including those that “may harm national security, law and order, public morals, or public health,” inviting undue government discretion. The law also gives authority to government officials to inspect an association’s premises at any time and otherwise interfere in the association’s internal affairs of the association, including the ability to review and reject decisions made by the association’s board. Sanctions for legal violations include imprisonment of individuals and dissolution of an organization.
Barriers to Speech and/or Advocacy The law prohibits engagement in “any work of political nature” – which has been used to limit organizations’ advocacy activity. Organizations must obtain Ministry permission before publishing the results of opinion polls or field research. Criminal defamation laws have been used to silence critics of the Government.
Barriers to International Contact Domestic organizations must obtain prior permission from the Ministry before they “cooperate with, join, affiliate with, or participate with” any foreign organization or entity. Organizations must also obtain permission from the Ministry before they may open branch offices outside of Egypt.
Barriers to Resources The Ministry must issue a special letter to a bank affiliated with the Central Bank of Egypt before an organization may open a bank account. Advance approval from the National Agency to Regulate the Work of Foreign NGOs is required for an organization to receive foreign funds or funds from Egyptian individuals abroad. Approval from the Ministry is required thirty days before an organization receives or collects any donations from domestic sources.
Barriers to Assembly Protest organizers must notify the government three days in advance of a public assembly of ten or more people. Excessive force is often used against protesters, and hundreds of protest participants have been arbitrarily detained and imprisoned.

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Key Indicators

Population 88,487,396 (July 2015 est.)
Capital Cairo
Type of Government Republic
Life Expectancy at Birth

Male: 71.06 years
Female: 76.47 years (2015 est.)

Literacy Rate

Male: 82.2%
Female: 65.4% (2015 est.)

Religious Groups Muslim (mostly Sunni) 90%, Coptic 9%, other Christian 1%
Ethnic Groups Egyptian 99.6%, other 0.4% (2006 census)
GDP Per Capita (PPP) $11,800 (2015 est.)

Source: The World Factbook. Washington, DC: Central Intelligence Agency, 2016.

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International Rankings

Ranking Body Rank Ranking Scale
(best - worst possible)
UN Human Development Index 108 (2015) 1 – 182
World Bank Rule of Law Index 36 (2015) 100 – 0
World Bank Voice & Accountability Index 18 (2015) 100 – 0
World Justice Project Rule of Law Index 108 (2016) 1 – 113
Transparency International 88 (2015) 1 180
Freedom House: Freedom in the World Status: Not Free
Political Rights: 6
Civil Liberties: 5 (2017)
Free/Partly Free/Not Free
1 – 7
1 – 7
Foreign Policy: Fragile States Index 38 (2016) 177 – 1

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Legal Snapshot

International and Regional Human Rights Agreements

Key International Agreements Ratification* Year
International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR) Yes 1982
Optional Protocol to ICCPR (ICCPR-OP1) No --
International Covenant on Economic, Social, and Cultural Rights (ICESCR) Yes 1982
Optional Protocol to ICESCR (OP-ICESCR) Yes 1957
International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination (ICERD) Yes 1967
Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW) Yes 1981
Optional Protocol to the Convention on the Elimination of Discrimination Against Women No --
Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC) Yes 1990
International Convention on the Protection of the Rights of All Migrant Workers and Members of their Families (ICRMW) Yes 1993
Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD) Yes 2008
Key Regional Agreements Ratification* Year
Arab Charter on Human Rights Yes 2004 (signed but not ratified)
African Charter on Human and Peoples' Rights Yes 1984
African Charter on the Rights and Welfare of the Child No --
Treaty Establishing the African Economic Community No --
Protocol to the African Charter on Human and Peoples' Rights on the Rights of Women in Africa No --
Protocol to the African Charter on Human and Peoples' Rights on the Establishment of an African Court on Human and Peoples' Rights No --

* Category includes ratification, accession, or succession to the treaty

Constitutional Framework

Egypt’s Constitution was adopted by popular referendum in January 2014. The constitution contains numerous rights protections that are relevant to civil society, although most of these have yet to see significant enforcement in practice. Relevant Constitutional provisions include:

Article 65 Freedom of thought:
Freedom of thought and opinion is guaranteed.

All individuals have the right to express their opinion through speech, writing, imagery, or any other means of expression and publication.

Article 70 Freedom of the press:
Freedom of press and printing, along with paper, visual, audio and digital distribution is guaranteed. Egyptians -- whether natural or legal persons, public or private -- have the right to own and issue newspapers and establish visual, audio and digital media outlets.
Newspapers may be issued once notification is given as regulated by law. The law shall regulate ownership and establishment procedures for visual and radio broadcast stations in addition to online newspapers.

Article 71 Freedom of publication:
It is prohibited to censor, confiscate, suspend or shut down Egyptian newspapers and media outlets in any way. Exception may be made for limited censorship in time of war or general mobilization.
No custodial sanction shall be imposed for crimes committed by way of publication or the public nature thereof. Punishments for crimes connected with incitement to violence or discrimination amongst citizens, or impugning the honor of individuals are specified by law.

Article 73 Freedom of assembly:
Citizens have the right to organize public meetings, marches, demonstrations and all forms of peaceful protest, while not carrying weapons of any type, upon providing notification as regulated by law.
The right to peaceful, private meetings is guaranteed, without the need for prior notification. Security forces may not attend, monitor or eavesdrop on such gatherings.

Article 74 Freedom to form political parties:
Citizens have the right to form political parties by notification as regulated by the law. No political activity may be exercised or political parties formed on the basis of religion, or discrimination based on sex, origin, sect or geographic location, nor may any activity be practiced that is hostile to democracy, secretive, or which possesses a military or quasi-military nature.

Parties may only dissolved by a judicial ruling.

Article 75 Right to establish associations:
Citizens have the right to form non-governmental organizations and institutions on a democratic basis, which shall acquire legal personality upon notification.

They shall be allowed to engage in activities freely. Administrative agencies shall not interfere in the affairs of such organizations, dissolve them, their board of directors, or their board of trustees except by a judicial ruling.

The establishment or continuation of non-governmental organizations and institutions whose structure and activities are operated and conducted in secret, or which possess a military or quasi-military character are forbidden, as regulated by law.

Article 76 Right to form syndicates:
The establishment of federations and syndicates on a democratic basis is a right guaranteed by law. Such federations and syndicates will possess legal personality, be able to practice their activities freely, contribute to improving the skills of its members, defend their rights and protect their interests.

The state guarantees the independence of all federations and syndicates. The boards of directors thereof may only dissolved by a judicial ruling.

Syndicates may not be established within governmental bodies.

Article 77 Trade unions:
The law shall regulate the establishment and administration of professional syndicates on a democratic basis, guarantee their independence, and specify their resources and the way members are recorded and held accountable for their behavior while performing their professional activities, according to ethical codes of moral and professional conduct.

No profession may establish more than one syndicate. Receivership may not be imposed nor may administrative bodies intervene in the affairs of such syndicates, and their boards of directors may only be dissolved by a judicial ruling. All legislation pertaining to a given profession shall be submitted to the relevant syndicate for consultation.

National Laws and Regulations Affecting Sector

Relevant national-level laws and regulations affecting civil society include:

  • Constitution of Arab Republic of Egypt of 2014
  • Civil Code (Law 131 of 1948 as amended) 
  • Law on Associations and Other Foundations Working in the Field of Civil Work (Law 70 of 2017, which replaced Law 84 of 2002 on Associations and Foundations)
  • Implementing Regulation for Law 84 of 2002 (Ministry of Social Affairs Decree 178 of 2002) [English] [عربي] ((still in force pending issuance of the regulations to implement Law 70 of 2017))
  • Law on the Right to Public Meetings, Processions and Peaceful Demonstrations (Law 107 of 2013)
  • Assembly Law of 1914 (Law 107 above did not replace this law, which is still on the books and may be used to impose additional penal sanctions)
  • Commercial Register Law (Law 34 of 1976 as amended by Law 98 of 1996)

Pending Legislative Initiatives

Law 70 provides that numerous areas of the law will be explained in further detail in executive regulations. These areas include the requirements for CSOs to obtain approval for fundraising; rules and requirements for CSOs’ receipt of foreign funds; procedures for foreign organizations to obtain an operating license; and cooperation or affiliation between local and foreign organizations. According to Law 70, these regulations are to be issued by the Prime Minister within two months of the law’s enactment.

Please help keep us informed; if you are aware of pending initiatives, write to ICNL at ngomonitor@icnl.org.


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Legal Analysis

Organizational Forms

Law 70 of 2017 provides for the establishment of civil associations and foundations. Not-for-profit companies can be established according to provisions in the Egyptian Civil Code and Corporate Code, however if these practice “civil work” as defined by Law 70, they must register under Law 70.

According to Law 70, an association is a “group of continuous legal formation established in accordance with the provisions of this law, composed of Egyptian natural or legal persons, or both, whose number is not less than ten, for a purpose of practicing civil work.” (Article 1(2)) Civil work is defined in the law as any not-for-profit activity that aims to achieve social development in a certain area. (Article 1(1)) In addition to requiring at least ten founders, the law requires that all founders and board members of CSOs must have capacity to exercise their civil rights and must never have been convicted of a “crime that breaches honor or integrity,” unless they were rehabilitated. Further, the number of members of an association that are not Egyptian cannot be more than 10 percent.  

According to Law 70, a foundation is established where a natural or legal person designates a fund of at least 50,000 Egyptian Pounds (approximately $2,800) for a not-for-profit, civil work purpose. (Article 1(4))
The remainder of this report will focus on associations, as the association has historically been by far the most common organizational form of CSO in Egypt.

Public Benefit Status

An association that pursues a public benefit and carries out activities to serve the public may be recognized as a “public benefit association” by a resolution from the Prime Minister. (Article 1(3)) An association may request this status, however the procedure for doing so and relevant criteria are to be determined by regulations.  

According to Article 51 of Law 70, a resolution from the Prime Minister will also define the privileges that public benefit associations may enjoy, including the protection of such organizations’ funds and possible government seizure of properties to assist the organizations in fulfilling their public benefit purposes. Historically, many public benefit organizations have had close political links to the ruling party or President. 

Barriers to Entry

Law 70 of 2017 includes of a number of legal and practical barriers to the establishment of associations. First, the law requires that all organizations doing “civil work” (defined above, see “Organizational Forms”) register under Law 70 in order to operate. The law expressly prohibits any entity to carry out civil work without complying with Law 70. Any individual who establishes or works with an unregistered or unauthorized organization is subject to up to five years in prison and a fine of 50,000-1 million Egyptian Pounds (roughly $2,700-$55,000). (Article 87)

In order to register, the law provides that organizations only need to notify the Ministry of their establishment. Nonetheless, subsequent provisions ensure that the notification process is burdensome, time-consuming, and subject to expansive government discretion: The notification of establishment must be accompanied by an extensive amount of documentation and personal information about founders including their criminal records, for instance. Organizations must also have a physical property and pay a fee of up to 10,000 Egyptian Pounds (roughly $550) as part of their notification. (Article 8-9) In addition, the Ministry of Social Solidarity can halt the registration process at any time on broad grounds, including if the submitted documents are not proper or if the association’s purposes are criminalized in the Penal Code or “any other law.” (Article 9) An association’s notification can be refused, for instance, if the association’s purposes are deemed by the government to “threaten the national unity,” or endanger “law and order or public morals." The Ministry used these grounds in early 2015 to deny registration to the Foundation of the Victims of Abduction and Forced Disappearance (FVAFD), a non-profit foundation that supports victims of violent assault and abduction.
Foreign and international NGOs have additional obstacles: In order to operate in Egypt, they must apply for and obtain an operating permit from the National Agency to Regulate the Work of Foreign NGOs (“Agency”). (Article 59) The permit lasts a maximum of three years, and costs up to 300,000 Egyptian Pounds (roughly $16,500) – a fee which will increase by 20 percent every five years. (Article 59, 61)

Further, the Ministry of Social Solidarity may, at its discretion and with the approval of the Agency, freeze the activities of a foreign organization at any time or cancel the organization’s operating permit if it commits violations of the law. Law 70 provides additional authority to cancel a foreign organization’s permit for reasons “related to any threats to national security, public safety, public order, or in accordance with the principle of reciprocity.” (Article 68)

Barriers to Operational Activity

Barriers to operational activity in Egypt take the form of explicit limitations on permissible activities, governmental interference in internal affairs, vague grounds for dissolution, the imposition of harsh sanctions, and extra-legal harassment by security authorities.

First, Law 70 of 2017 expressly limits the activities that CSOs may engage in. Associations and foreign NGOs are restricted to activities “in the fields of development and social welfare” (not further defined), and the activities must align with the state’s development plan and priorities. (Article 14) Numerous activities require prior government permission before CSOs may undertake them, including conducting field research and opinion polls, or concluding an agreement “of any form” with any foreign entity. (Article 14(g-h)) The law contains broad prohibitions on activities including those that “may harm national security, law and order, public morals, or public health,” inviting undue government discretion to determine what constitutes such activities. (Article 14(b)). The law also prohibits any activity that promotes “causes that run against the constitution and law,” or “call[s] for the violation or non-enforcement of laws or regulations.” (Article 14(c)
Second, Law 70 also explicitly authorizes the government to interfere in the internal affairs of an association. Specifically:

  • The Ministry of Social Solidarity and National Agency to Regulate the Work of Foreign NGOs have the legal right to “take the necessary procedures” to rectify any association’s activities or products that are in violation of the law. (Article 26)
  • Representatives of the Ministry of Social Solidarity may enter the offices of an association at any time to inspect its records and activities. The association must facilitate the inspection. (Article 27)
  • The Ministry may review decisions issued by an association and, if deemed in violation of Law 70 or any other law, the Ministry can request that the association withdraw the decision. (Article 31)
  • The Ministry may review all members of the Board of Directors of an association, and if it deems any member not to meet the conditions required by Law 70, can remove that member. (Article 34)
  • An association must provide the Ministry with a copy of the minutes of its General Assembly meetings; (Article 32) it must also notify the Ministry within fifteen days of any decisions taken by the General Assembly or Board of Directors. (Article 38)
  • The Minister of Social Solidarity may appoint acting members of the Board of Directors where there are insufficient members to hold a meeting. (Article 40); the Minister may also dissolve the Board of Directors for a variety of reasons, including if the board has not convened a meeting of the General Assembly for two consecutive years or if the association has violated provisions of Law 70 related to fundraising. (Article 42)

Third, while Law 70 provides that associations may only be dissolved by judicial decision, it provides vague grounds for such decisions, thereby inviting subjective and arbitrary decision-making on dissolution decisions. Vague grounds include if the association:

  • “[C]ooperates, joins, subscribes, or affiliates with” a foreign association, authority, organization or other foreign entity without obtaining prior permission from the Agency.
  • Threatens the national unity or public order or public morals. 

Fourth, Law 70 and other provisions of Egyptian law make harsh sanctions – including imprisonment and steep fines – available for associations’ and their members’ violations of the law. Conducting “civil work” activities as an unregistered association, conducting activities that threaten the national unity, and receiving foreign funds without prior governmental approval are all examples of violations that may be punished with up to five years’ imprisonment and a fine of up to 1 million Egyptian Pounds (approximately $55,500). (Article 87) Certain provisions of the Penal Code, in particular Articles 86bis and 98, also penalize particular activities relating to associations.

Finally, the security apparatus has historically interfered in association’s activities and operations, and incidents of harassment have increased since the 2011 Revolution. For instance, in December 2011, authorities raided and shut down the offices of six international and Egyptian organizations, and commenced a two-year trial of NGO employees marked by procedural violations (reopened in 2016 as Case No. 173/2011).  In December 2013, security authorities raided the offices of the Egyptian Center for Economic and Social Rights, and detained and beat six employees. Egyptian officials raided and searched the Egyptian Commissions for Rights and Freedom’s (ECRF) offices in Cairo in October 2016; witnesses said the officials appeared to be part of Egypt’s police apparatus. Security authorities also shut down the El-Nadeem Center for the Rehabilitation of Victims of Violence and Torture in February 2017, after repeated attempts to shutter the Center and freezing of its assets in 2016.

Barriers to Speech / Advocacy

Egyptian law prohibits “any work of a political nature” by associations and other entities governed by Law 70. This prohibition is broader than that in the previous CSO law, Law 84 of 2002, which more narrowly prohibited associations from carrying out “any political activities the exercise of which is restricted to political parties according to the Parties Law.” The much broader language of Law 70 gives officials much more leeway to decide what is considered “political” and thus prohibited under the law. Advocacy activities or those concerned with civil and political rights, for instance, could potentially be encompassed by the law and disallowed.  

Egypt’s strict defamation and insult laws, often involving criminal penalties, have also been used to silence critics of Egypt’s Government. This was the case prior to the 2011 Revolution and has remained the case afterwards, as countless provisions criminalizing defamation of public authorities in particular remain part of the Penal Code. This had led to legal charges against journalists and others, such as satirist Bassem Youssef, whose television show was famous for mocking Egypt’s military and political leaders from 2011 to 2014. In addition to laws severely penalizing defamation and related offenses, Egyptian law includes other restrictions on speech, such as penalties for spreading false information or harming public morals. In November 2015, for instance, Hossam Bahgat, the founder of the Egyptian Initiative for Personal Rights and an investigative journalist, was detained for three days on charges of “publishing false news aimed at harming national security,” after he published an article on the trial of 26 military officers accused of having plotted a coup.

Barriers to International Contact

Egyptian law imposes a number of constraints on CSOs’ access to critical financial resources. Under Law 70, an association cannot open a bank account without government permission. When an association submits its notification of establishment to the Ministry of Social Solidarity, the Ministry is to issue a letter to a bank affiliated with the Central Bank of Egypt, instructing it to open an account for the organization. (Article 10) In the absence of that letter, however, an organization has no access to a bank account. Legal restrictions specifically limit access to both foreign funding, which has served as a lifeline for many organizations in the absence of sufficient public or local support, as well as domestic funding.

Barriers to Resources

Foreign Funding

Law 70 prohibits any association from receiving foreign funds, donations, and grants – whether from outside Egypt or from foreigners inside Egypt – without approval from the National Agency to Regulate the Work of Foreign NGOs (“Agency”). The law requires that associations notify the Agency within thirty days of receiving funds in the association’s bank account, after which the Agency has 60 days to approve the notification of pending funds. If it does not approve the funds, or does not respond at all, the association cannot keep or use the funds. (Article 24) In the past, securing ministerial approval on funding requests could require a wait of two months or more. Failure to secure approval can lead to individual penalties including five years’ imprisonment and a fine, and can also be grounds for the court-ordered dissolution of an association. (Articles 87, 43) This was the case under Law 84/2002, as well. For example, in April 2009, the Egyptian Organization for Human Rights (EOHR) received a dissolution decree, alleging that the EOHR received foreign funding without authorization. The dissolution order reportedly came soon after EOHR published its 2008 Annual Report, which contained criticism of the Egyptian Government.
Sending funds from an Egyptian CSO to a natural or legal person abroad also requires advance approval from the Ministry of Social Solidarity. (Article 24; The law makes an exception for scientific and technical books, magazines, publications, and brochures.) Law 70 applies the same sanctions for sending and receiving foreign funding without government approval. (Article 87)

Egypt’s Penal Code creates additional restrictions on foreign funding. Following amendments in September 2014, Penal Code Article 78 provides for expanded penalties on anyone who accepts foreign funds in order to conduct activities deemed harmful to Egypt’s national interests and unity. Article 78 punishes with life in prison and a steep fine anyone who receives funding or other support from a foreign source, with the intent to “harm the national interest,” “compromise national unity,” or “breach security or public peace.” The provisions impose the same penalty of a life sentence on anyone who gives or offers such support, or “facilitates” its receipt. The vague language and broad terms of Article 78 have led to self-censorship among human rights organizations and activists, who fear the provisions may be used to prosecute them for activity that is critical of the government.

Domestic Funding

Law 70 imposes limitations on associations’ access to domestic funding as well. The law provides that associations must obtain prior consent from the Ministry of Social Solidarity before they may fundraise or receive any donations. (Article 23) Further, they must notify the Ministry of all cash funds and donations received from inside Egypt. The Executive Regulations for the law will provide the process for notifying and receiving consent from the Ministry. The Regulations will also set forth the procedures to be followed in order for associations to receive in-kind donations.

Barriers to Assembly

It is estimated that more than 3,000 individuals were killed in the context of demonstrations in the months during and after the 2011 Revolution – the majority in instances of excessive use of force by authorities. Numerous individuals have been detained and charged with violating provisions of the law governing protests, even in the absence of any individual evidence against them; others are not charged at all, but spend extensive time in periodically-renewed pretrial detention.

In November 2013, interim President Adly Mansour approved a controversial new law to regulate public assembly in Egypt, including marches, demonstrations, and public meetings of ten people or more. As originally issued, the law required assembly organizers to notify the Interior Ministry at least three days before assembling, and allows the Ministry to ban protests or impose other harsh penalties, including imprisonment, for a range of vaguely defined acts such as “violating the public order,” “impeding the interests of citizens,” or “obstructing traffic.” Under amendments to the law approved in March 2017, the Interior Ministry no longer has blanket authority to ban protests; that power was transferred to the judiciary. Accordingly, if a court refuses an organizer’s notification of intent to protest, the organizer may appeal. (The amendments modify Article 10 of the law in accordance with the December 2016 ruling by the Supreme Constitutional Court.)

The law also fails to place adequate restrictions on the use of force to break up assemblies. Since the law was issued, police have forcibly dispersed numerous peaceful protests; it is estimated that many hundreds of individuals have been arrested and imprisoned under the new law. These include prominent activists such as Alaa Abd El-Fattah, a leader of the "No to Military Trials" campaign, who was arrested for organizing an unauthorized protest and sentenced in 2015 to five years in prison. Egypt’s Illegal Assembly Law of 1914 also remains in effect, and, together with various provisions of the Penal Code, is often used to bring additional charges against individuals detained in the context of protests.

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Reports

UN Universal Periodic Review Reports Universal Periodic Review 2014: Egypt
Reports of UN Special Rapporteurs Egypt
USIG (United States International Grantmaking) Country Notes Not available
U.S. State Department 2014 Human Rights Report: Egypt
Fragile States Index Reports 2015 Foreign Policy Fragile States Index
IMF Country Reports Arab Republic of Egypt: Selected Issues: 2007
Arab Republic of Egypt: Selected Issues: 2005
International Commission of Jurists ICJ Submission to the Universal Periodic Review of Egypt August 2009
Egypt - ACIJLP Organizes the First Activities of its Campaign "Empowering Women to Hold Judiciary Positions in Egypt": 2006
NGO Regulation Network Reports Egypt - Fast Facts
CIVICUS Civil Society Index Reports Civil Society Index - Country Report for Egypt
International Center for Not-for-Profit Law Online Library Egypt

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News and Additional Resources

While we aim to maintain information that is as current as possible, we realize that situations can rapidly change.  If you are aware of any additional information or inaccuracies on this page, please keep us informed; write to ICNL at ngomonitor@icnl.org.

Egypt’s President enacts law placing severe restrictions on aid groups (May 2017)
President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi enacted a law that imposes strict new regulations on aid groups, stoking fears that his government intends to accelerate its harsh crackdown on human rights activists before a presidential election scheduled for next year.

Egypt's President Al-Sisi Issues Controversial NGO Law (May 2017)
After six months of its ratification by the Egyptian parliament, President Abdel Fattah Al-Sisi issued the controversial NGO law that is extensively criticized by civil society and rights organizations locally and internationally. The new law gives NGOs a one-year time span to comply with the new terms or they will have to suspend their activities and shut down. In a previous joint statement issued by civil society organizations and political parties, it was feared that the approval of the new law will eradicate the work of NGOs and will hand it to the government and security apparatuses. The new law stipulates that NGOs may not engage in any activities that might clash with national security and public order, which was deemed by rights groups as a “vague and broad condition”. The newly approved law will also curb the work of independent NGOs by making their funding and operation heavily controlled by the government, according to Human Rights Watch.

Egypt’s state of emergency may act to further silence press (April 2017)
Soon after the church bombings of April 9, Egyptian President Sisi announced a three-month state of emergency. According to the Committee to Protect Journalists, the measure is a further sign of Sisi's determination to control the media and broader flow of information in the country.

Rights lawyer jailed for 10 years, issued 5-year social media ban (April 2017)
Rights lawyer Mohamed Ramadan was sentenced to 10 years in prison on charges of insulting the president, misusing social media, and inciting violence. The Alexandria Criminal Court ordered Ramadan to remain under house arrest for five years, and banned him from using social media for the same period. The ruling was issued according to Terrorism Law 94/2015, which enables courts to apply probational measures as well as prison sentences, and can include preventing the use of certain communication methods.

Egypt's parliament regulates NGOs in law activists says is repressive (November 2016)
Egypt's parliament overwhelmingly endorsed a law regulating non-governmental organizations on Tuesday that human rights groups and activists say effectively bans their work and makes it harder for charities to operate. The bill restricts NGO activity to developmental and social work and introduces jail terms of up to five years for non- compliance. It bans NGOs from conducting fieldwork or polls without permission or "from cooperating in any way with any international body without the necessary approval". The bill also stipulates that foreign NGOs be overseen by a regulating agency that includes representatives of Egypt's military, intelligence service and interior ministry.

Egypt parliament finally approves new NGO law (November 2016)
Two thirds of Egypt's MPs approved a new 89-Article law aimed at regulating the operations of NGOs in the country. After gaining the approval of the overwhelming majority of MPs, Abdel-Aal said Egypt's parliament has taken a historic move towards regulating the operations of NGOs on a new basis that would safeguard national security and prevents chaos.

New regulation mandates NGOs consult ministry security department on activities (August 2016)
In a letter sent to several nongovernmental organizations, the Ministry of Social Solidarity has detailed a new regulation whereby NGOs must consult with the ministry’s security department regarding all planned activities. According to the letter, registered NGOs must notify the security department of any planned visits, conferences, or panels, and least one and a half months in advance.

Retaliation still continues against the backdrop of “Foreign Funding” case (May 2016)
Seven leading human rights groups issued a joint statement condemning the escalated measures undertaken by Egypt’s government against independent human rights organizations.

Egypt human rights defender accused of belonging to terrorist group (April 2016)
Ahmad Abdallah, a prominent human rights defender and the head of the Egyptian Commission for Rights and Freedoms (ECRF), was arrested in Egypt and accused by the government of a series of offenses including, “belonging to a terrorist group.” ECRF has among other things worked to document an alarming rise in forced disappearances in Egypt over the past year.

UN experts urge Egypt to end ongoing crackdown on human rights defenders (April 2016)
Three UN human rights experts raised alarm at the continuing crackdown on human rights defenders and civil society organizations in Egypt. They warned that many NGOs have been closed down, and human rights defenders have been interrogated by the security forces, subjected to travel bans, and had their assets frozen in retaliation for their legitimate and peaceful human rights work.

Judge imposes gag order on NGO foreign funding case (March 2016)
Investigating Judge Hesham Abdel Meguid issued a gag order on the recently reopened case against local NGOs accused of unlawfully accepting foreign funds, prohibiting any type of media outlet form publishing anything on the case other than statements issued by the presiding judges, until investigations are complete.

Nazra for Feminist Studies summoned for investigation in re-opened NGO case (March 2016)
Nazra for Feminist Studies received summons for investigation in the re-opened 2011 case against a number of NGOs for operating and receiving foreign funding without a license. In the original case, filed in 2011, 43 staff from foreign NGOs were tried and sentenced to prison in June 2013; local NGOs were implicated in the investigation but not brought to trial at that time. 2011

NGO case reopened against Hossam Bahgat, Gamal Eid and others (March 2016)
A criminal court in Cairo will review a ruling to freeze the assets of four defendants, including Hossam Bahgat and Gamal Eid, pending investigations into charges that they illegally received foreign funding for their NGOs, in a case dating back to 2011. Bahgat, founder of the Egyptian Initiative for Personal Rights (EIPR), and Eid, Director of Arabic Network for Human Rights Information (ANHRI), are also barred from leaving Egypt.

Rights lawyer accused of managing illegal operation (March 2016)
Rights Lawyer and Director of the United Group law firm Negad al-Boraie was interrogated for three hours on six charges including managing an illegal organization. According to a statement issued by United Group, Boraie has been charged with establishing an unlicensed entity with the intent of "inciting resistance to authorities, implementing human rights activities without a license.. and deliberately spreading false information with the purpose of harming public order or public interest."

Egypt dissolves 57 NGOs for "(Muslim) Brotherhood ties" (September 2015)
The Ministry of Social Solidarity ordered the closures of NGOs on the basis of the their alleged "ties with the Muslim Brotherhood," which was banned in 2013. This brings the number of NGOs dissolved by the government in 2015 to 380.

Renewed Crackdown on Independent Groups (June 2015)
Egyptian authorities have brought increasing pressure to bear on independent NGOs in Egypt that receive foreign funding or have criticized government policies, including by means of official harassment, travel bans, and threats of prosecution or violence.

Detentions, terrorist incidents increased in the first quarter of 2015 (April 2015)
According to a report by the Democracy Index, affiliated with the Cairo-based International Development Center, 1,353 protests took place in the first three months of 2015, 40 percent of which were related to economic and social demands. The report said that both the number of detentions by Egyptian authorities and the number of terrorist incidents increased in the first quarter of 2015 as well.

Concerns over human rights and civil society discussed before UNHRC (March 2015)
A group of 19 Egyptian human rights organisations forming a coalition named The Forum of Independent Human Rights Organizations (The Forum) delivered a speech before the UN's Human Right's Council (UNHRC) raising concerns over the human rights situation in Egypt. The Cairo Institute for Human Rights Studies (CIHRS) delivered the speech on behalf of The Forum. It pointed to “several instances demonstrating how human rights defenders and civil society organisations are being targeted, whether through security crackdowns, unfair prosecutions, travel bans, extrajudicial killings, and repressive legislation”. The CIHRS speech asserted that “thus far there has been no genuine political will to stop violations against human rights defenders in Egypt and uphold the work of rights groups”.

Memorandum to the President from the CIHRS on the Constitution, Law, and the Emancipation of Civil Society (September 2014
The Cairo Institute for Human Rights Studies sent a memorandum signed by 23 other rights organizations to President Sisi, seeking the withdrawal of restrictive draft NGO law released by the Ministry of Social Solidarity, and cancellation of the Ministry's registration warning issued on 18 July 2014.

Egypt: Draft Law Threatens Independent Organizations (July 2014)
Human Rights Watch issued a statement condemning the draft law on NGOs released by Egypt's Ministry of Social Solidarity. Among other things, the draft law "would make all activities of associations.. subject to government veto," "empower the government and security agencies to dissolve existing groups, pending a court order, or refuse to license new groups if it decided their activities could 'threaten national unity.'"

The Confiscation of Wasla: A Dangerous Escalation in Harassment of Human Rights (June 2014)
In an escalation of the crackdown on rights groups, Egyptian security forces have confiscated Issue No. 72 of Wasla, a magazine issued by the Arabic Network for Human Rights Information (ANHRI), and arrested a worker at the press where the publication was being printed, charging him with possession of publications that call for the overthrow of the regime and which promote a terrorist organization. The worker will be held in pre-trail detention for four days pending investigations.

Egyptian president must reject flawed anti-terrorism laws (April 2014)
New counter-terrorism legislation set to be approved by Egypt's president is deeply flawed and must be scrapped or fundamentally revised, Amnesty International said. Two draft anti-terror laws, which were sent to interim president Adly Mansour on April 3 and could be signed off at any time, would give the Egyptian authorities increased powers to muzzle freedom of expression and imprison opponents and critics. "These deeply flawed draft laws can be abused because they include an increasingly broad and vague definition of terrorism," warned Amnesty International's Middle East and North Africa Deputy Director Hassiba Hadj Sahraoui.

News Archives



Rights groups outraged by the raid of ECESR
(December 2013)

No Acknowledgment or Justice for Mass Protester Killings: Set Up a Fact-Finding Committee as a First Step
(December 2013)

Egypt Warns Protesters Will Be Treated As Foreign Agents Ahead Of Military Celebrations (October 2013)

Egypt sentences American NGO workers to jail (June 2013)

NGO draft law ‘strikes fear’ into civil society (June 2013)

Ahmed Fahmi: NGO law fears unfounded (May 2013)

U.S. State Department Daily Press Briefing: Egypt's NGO Law (April 2013)

Statement on Repressive NGO Law (February 2013)

Court ruling to block YouTube is disproportionate and violates right to information (February 2013)

Final draft of NGO law sent to Cabinet (February 2013)

NGOs talk human rights violations with EU, US representatives (February 2013)

Problematic NGO law About to Be Enacted (February 2013)

Egyptian Lawyer on Trial for Working With ‘Illegal Organization’ (January 2013)

Who funds Egypt's Islamists? (January 2013)

NGOs can apply to oversee Egypt parliament polls until 15 February: SEC (January 2013)

Mostly forgotten, Egyptian trial of US NGO workers drags on (January 2013)

Egypt's Constituent Assembly to become an NGO (January 2013)

NGOs reject Morsi’s constitutional declaration (December 2012)

Demonstrations in Tahrir Call for Annulling Constitutional Declaration (November 2012)

Commissioner Füle in Egypt: Civil society has key role in delivering reform (November 2012)

Campaign assembles NGOs against draft constitution (November 2012)

Rights groups say excluded from EU talks (November 2012)

The nationalization of Egypt’s civil society (November 2012)

Under new draft law foreign funding still requires permits (October 2012)

Egypt court to hear testimony in NGO foreign funding case in November (October 2012)

Fix draft Constitution to protect key rights (October 2012)

Civil society has its own draft law (October 2012)

Protection sought for political and non-governmental organizations (October 2012)

Arab League, OIC proposals out of step with progress on freedom of expression (September 2012)

Alarm raised over Egypt constitution (September 2012)

Intellectuals and rights advocates blast draft Egypt Charter on Freedoms (September 2012)

Government studies new law to regulate foreign capital (September 2012)

Rumors that judge of NGO case was sent to criminal court are false, say officials (August 2012)

Status of Muslim Brotherhood legal (August 2012)

"We respect peaceful protest and demonstration," says Muslim Brotherhood (August 2012)

US concerned about freedom of speech in Egypt, Bahrain (August 2012)

Architect of Egypt’s NGO crackdown bows out (July 2012)

Funding for NGOs in decline following crackdown (July 2012)

NGOs see funding drying up as international donors grow scared (June 2012)

NGO case ruling could widen crackdown on civil society, says American defendant (June 2012)

Draft law will ensure Mubarak re-trial, MP Hamzawy (June 2012)

Trial of NGO workers set to resume in Egypt (June 2012)

NGO dispute means fewer monitors for Egypt vote (May 2012)

EOHR raises critical analysis for the NGO’s draft law made by Muslim Brotherhood (May 2012)

Representatives of NGOs reject new draft law (April 2012)

Egypt bans NGOs using the "State Sovereignty" argument (April 2012)

Coptic Orphans NGO denied permission to work in Egypt (April 2012)

Joint press release by 25 Egyptian human rights organizations (April 2012)

U.S. pressing Interpol to deny Egypt's request to arrest NGO workers (April 2012)

Cairo refused LE21 million in foreign NGO funding since January 25th uprising (March 2012)

Recent opinions about the restrictions on CSOs in Egypt (March 2012)

American activists fly out of Egypt, defusing row (March 2012)

Amendments to Law on Associations and Foundations to undercut foreign funding (February 2012)

Egypt: Govt-U.S. standoff could hit 40,000 NGOs (February 2012)

Egypt judges in NGO funding trial resign (February 2012)

NGO workers could face 5 years in prison, Egyptian judges say (February 2012)

Egypt names 19 Americans to face trial on NGO funding (February 2012)

Egypt officials see end to U.S. NGO stand-off (February 2012)

EOHR submits the NGOs draft law to the Parliament (January 2012)

NGOs reject draft law regulating their activity (January 2012)

Harassment in Egypt (January 2012)

HRW Statement: Dismantle Tools of Repression (January 2012)

Egypt's NGOs must be protected (January 2012)

U.S.-funded NGOs in Egypt ‘shocked’ by raid on offices, deny funding parties or groups (January 2012)

Unwanted: NGOs in post-revolution Egypt (November 2011) 

The military council's policy of exclusion and marginalization of institutions of civil society (October 2011)

Egypt's NGOs receive $167m from abroad (October 2011)

Tough post-revolution reality for NGOs in Egypt (October 2011)

NGOs face smear campaign ahead of elections (October 2011) 

Minister rejects US funding of unregistered NGOs (October 2011) 

The Egyptian authorities should bring an end to attacks against civil society organizations (October 2011) 

Egypt NGOs may fade if denied foreign funding (September 2011) 

Authorities to investigate funding of unregistered NGOs (September 2011)

Egypt ups pressure on foreign funding to NGOs (September 2011) 

Civil society seeks to fight back against govt attacks (August 2011)

US defends aid as Egypt probes NGO foreign funding (August 2011) 

US aid to Egypt's civil society: a need, a blessing and a curse (August 2011)

Egyptian banks to inform government of NGO banking transfers (August 2011)

Government accused of suppressing freedoms (July 2011) 

Foreign funding of Egyptian rights groups causes stir in political discourse (July 2011)

Egypt govt to form fact-finding committee over NGO funding (July 2011)

US violated Egypt’s sovereignty by offering funds to NGOs, says minister (July 2011)

Is Egypt considering a Freedom of Information law? (June 2011)

Human rights advocates want new constitution before elections (June 2011)

Human rights reform an urgent priority (June 2011) 

Civil society a force in Egypt’s democratization (April 2011) 

Youth coalition to protest new law criminalizing demonstrations (March 2011) 

New Egyptian law criminalizes protests (March 2011)

Follow the Egyptian money (February 2011)

NGOs in Egypt adjust to turmoil (February 2011) 

Does Egypt need a new constitution? (February 2011) 

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The foregoing information was collected by ICNL LLC Middle East / North Africa Regional office in Amman, Jordan.