Acting Deputy Spokesperson for the US State Department Patrick Ventrell said in a Monday press briefing that Egypt’s proposed NGO law would “weaken civil society’s essential role in government accountability and hamper the accountability of government in the eyes of the people”.
Ventrell said that the US supports civil society around the world in a nonpartisan manner, aiming to help civil society grow and become productive. “But we don’t choose sides or pick one way or another who should have influence. It’s a matter of broadly developing civil society,” he added.
The NGO draft law has been heavily criticised by various groups, both local and international.
Freedom House recently described the law as “restrictive” and said that the discussion and drafting of the legislation was rushed. It called on President Mohamed Morsi to take no decision regarding the law until it can be deliberated by an elected parliament.
The Euro-Mediterranean Human Rights Network said that the current draft of the law should be repealed and replaced with one that “complies with international human rights standards”.
Freedom House said the law would give a government coordinating committee the power to deny licences to NGOs, prohibit their activities, and approve or deny foreign funding.
The Egyptian Organisation for Human Rights said in March that the committee that will approve foreign funding will include Ministry of Interior representatives, thus legalising security forces’ interference in civil society. The organisation added that the draft introduces new burdens for NGOs, such as requiring a minimum of EGP 250,000 in capital to establish an NGO.