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The New Arab

Egypt's new NGO law threatens to 'annihilate rights groups'

President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi approved the controversial law on Monday [Getty]

Date of publication: 31 May, 2017

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Amnesty international warns that unprecedented restrictions on NGOs will spell a 'death sentence' for rights groups in the country.

A new law ratified by Egypt's president that imposes unprecedented restrictions on NGOs could be "a death sentence" for human rights groups in the country, watchdog Amnesty International said on Tuesday.

Amnesty described the law in a statement as "a catastrophic blow for human rights groups working in Egypt."

"The severity of the restrictions imposed by this law threatens to annihilate NGOs in the country, at a time when the authorities' escalating crackdown on dissent makes their work more important than ever," said Najia Bounaim, Amnesty's North Africa campaign director.

The law restricts NGO activity to developmental and social work and introduces five-year jail terms for non-compliance and fines of up to one million Egyptian pounds ($55,000).

Foreign NGOs will also have to pay $16,500 to begin work in Egypt, and will have to renew their permits on a regular basis.

The new legislation comes as part of a wider crackdown against potential dissent by President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi, who has maintained a tight grip on opposition to his government since rising to power in 2013.

Supporters of the president argue that the law is necessary to regulate groups accused of feeding chaos in Egypt, which has undergone political in economic instability sicne the overthrow of longtime dictator Hosni Mubarak in 2011.

Following the law's approval by parliament in November 2016, Amnesty urged president Sisi not to sign it due to its conflict with Egypt's constitution and international obligations.

The rights group said that the ratification came without addressing concerns raised by Egyptian and international rights organisations.

This month, Egyptian authorities stepped up measures against government critics.

On May 23, former presidential candidate Khaled Ali was arrested on charges of violating public decency. Ali was later released on bail pending trial.

Last week, authorities also blocked several news websites, including prominent news platforms Mada Masr and Daily News Egypt.

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