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Motion for a resolution - B7-0359/2013Motion for a resolution

    MOTION FOR A RESOLUTION on the situation of civil society in Egypt

    3.7.2013 - (2013/2692(RSP))

    with request for inclusion in the agenda for a debate on cases of breaches of human rights, democracy and the rule of law
    pursuant to Rule 122 of the Rules of Procedure

    Marietje Schaake, Edward McMillan-Scott, Louis Michel, Robert Rochefort, Graham Watson, Sarah Ludford, Ramon Tremosa i Balcells, Izaskun Bilbao Barandica, Marielle de Sarnez, Johannes Cornelis van Baalen, Angelika Werthmann, Hannu Takkula on behalf of the ALDE Group

    NB: This motion for a resolution is available in the original language only.


    European Parliament resolution on the situation of civil society in Egypt


    The European Parliament,

    - having regard to its previous resolutions on Egypt on 16 February and 15 March 2012, and on 14 March 2013,


    - having regard to the statement of its President Martin Schulz on the conviction of 43 NGO workers in Egypt on 5 June 2013,


    - having regard to the statements by EU High Representative Catherine Ashton on 1 February 2012 on the continued crackdown on civil society in Egypt; having regard to the statement of the spokesperson of the HR/VP Catherine Ashton on new NGO law on 2 June 2013; having regard to the joint statement of the EU HR/VP Catherine Ashton and the European Commissioner in charge of the EU enlargement and neighbourhood policy Stefan Fule on the Egyptian NGO trial verdicts on 5 June 2013,


    - having regard to the Council conclusions on Egypt on 27 February, 25 June, 19 November, and 10 December 2012, on the EU Support for Sustainable Change in Transition Societies on 31 January 2013, and on the Arab Spring on 8 February 2013,


    - having regard to the statements of the President of the European Council Herman Van Rompuy after his meetings with the Egyptian President Mohamed Morsi, on 13 September 2012, and on 13 January 2013,


    - having regard to the European Neighbourhood Policy (ENP) Package since 2004 and in particular to the Commission's progress report on its implementation on 20 March 2013,


    - having regard to the EU-Egypt Association Agreement of 2004 and the Action Plan agreed in 2007,


    - having regard to the EU Task Force meetings on 13 and 14 November 2012, and its conclusions,


    - having regard to its resolution on the freedom of the press and media in the world of 13 June 2013,


    - having regard to the interim opinion on the draft law on civic work organisations of Egypt, adopted by the Venice Commission on 15 June 2013,


    - having regard to the Commission memorandum 'EU's response to the Arab Spring: the state of play after two years' on 8 February 2013,


    - having regard to the joint communication of the EC and of the EU HR/VP Catherine Ashton to the European Parliament, the Council, the European Economic and Social Committee and the Committee of the Regions, on 'Delivering on a new European Neighbourhood Policy' on 15 May 2012,


    - having regard to the statement of the spokesperson of the UN Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon on Egypt on 5 June 2013; having regard to the statement of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillay on 8 May 2013; having regard to the press briefing notes of her spokesperson on Egypt on 7 June 2013,


    - having regard to the urgent statement of the Euro-Mediterranean Human Rights Network (EMHRN) and the Observatory for the Protection of Human Rights Defenders, a joint programme of the International Federation for Human Rights (FIDH) and the World organization for Torture (OMCT), on the situation in Egypt, and in particular on the alarming restrictions and criminalisation of civil society work, on 5 June 2013,


    - having regard to the statement by 40 Egyptian civil society organisations on 30 May 2013,


    - having regard the Egyptian Constitution and in particular Art 51, which states that associations shall be formed by notification,


    - having regard to the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights of 1966 to which Egypt agreed to be party, and in particular its Article 22 which stipulates that 'everyone shall have the right to freedom of association with others, including the right to form and to join trade unions for the protection of his interests',


    - having regard to the Universal Declaration of Human Rights of 1948,


    - having regard to Rule 110(2) and (4) of its Rules of Procedure,


    A. whereas the NGOs situation in Egypt is alarming as they face mounting pressure and major difficulties in operating in the country; whereas a committee to review civil institutions and NGOs aimed at tightening legal control on foreign funding of civil society organizations and political foundations was announced in October 2011 and consequently a request was issued to the Central Bank to monitor all bank transfers of NGOs; whereas the offices of ten foreign funded organizations were searched, investigated and banned by the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces (SCAF) and the 43 workers were referred on trial in December 2011;


    B. whereas on 4 June 2013, the North Cairo Criminal Court ruled on the case of 43 NGO workers, all of whom were found guilty; whereas 27 of the defendants were sentenced in absentia to five years imprisonment; whereas the others received different sentences ranging from 1 to 5 years jail sentences;


    C. whereas they were convicted for "managing unlicensed branches" of their organisations, "conducting research, political training, surveys, and workshops without licences", "training political parties and groups", and "illegally receiving foreign funding";


    D. whereas the Court also ordered the confiscation of funds and the closure of Egypt-based branches of Freedom House, the International Republican Institute, the National Democratic Institute, the International Centre for Journalists (ICFJ), and Konrad Adenauer Foundation;


    E. whereas these sentences are the culmination of an escalating legal crackdown on national and international NGOs and an increasingly restrictive environment for civil society in Egypt, in contradiction with international human rights law and undermining efforts to promote civic work, democratic values and safeguarding human rights;


    F. whereas the verdict is based on the Mubarak era Law 84/2002; whereas this law has often been used in ways that have led to severe limitations of the right to freedom of association;


    G. whereas this condemnation comes at a time when the Shura Council is discussing a new draft law on associations that rises the utmost concern as it aims to dictate civil society organisation their acceptable goals, activities and internal functioning, and seeks to establish multiple-level bureaucratic and content-based controls on all civil society activities, aligning them with government policies, with the risk of stifling any dissenting voice and further criminalising civil activists;


    H. whereas the EU in the spirit of true partnership has engaged with the Egyptian government and has provided technical advice to the authorities in the process of drafting a new law on associations, the NGO Law; whereas the draft law still contains elements that can unnecessarily constrain the work of NGOs in Egypt and hinder the EU's capacity as a foreign donor to support their work;


    I. whereas civil society has a crucial role to play in Egypt's on-going democratic transition and must be allowed to operate freely; whereas any new law on associations has to be in line with international standards and obligations of Egypt;


    J. whereas an independent and free press and media form a key part of society in a true democracy, providing access to information, a crucial check on power and play an important role in supporting the aims and actions of civil society groups;


    K. whereas the EU Special Representative for Human Rights, Stavros Lambrinidis, visited Cairo last month to discuss the draft NGO law with all stakeholders;


    L. whereas the UN Special Rapporteurs and the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights find that the bill threaten the activities of civil society organisations, rather than allowing these organizations to support the process of building a democratic state in Egypt;


    M. whereas on 2 June Egypt’s Supreme Constitutional Court (SCC) ruled that both the Shura Council and the Constituent Assembly were formed unconstitutionally, based on an electoral law relating to independent candidates which was also ruled unconstitutional earlier this year; whereas the SCC postponed the dissolution of the Shura Council until after the next parliamentary elections;


    N.whereas the allocation received by Egypt between 2007 and 2013 is approximately of 1 billion euro; whereas 60% of these funds are channelled through sector budget support (SBS) to the Egyptian government; whereas the EU has also made much smaller amounts available directly to civil society organizations (CSOs), notably through the European Instrument for Democracy and Human Rights (EIDHR);


    O. whereas the success of the European Neighbourhood Policy as well as the success of the reforms in the area of human rights, depend on the involvement of civil society in the implementation of the relevant policies;


    1. Is deeply concerned at the recent Court ruling in Egypt sentencing 43 employees of foreign NGOs referred to trial in December 2011 and the closure of 5 foreign NGOs; considers that this verdict constitutes a severe violation of the right to freedom of association, conveys a negative signal regarding the work of civil society and intends to strangle a vivid civil society in Egypt;


    2. Urges the Egyptian authorities to immediately put an end to all forms of harassment or intimidation to which independent civil society organizations are subjected and especially to drop all criminal charges against civil society workers;


    3. Calls on the Egyptian authorities to respect the freedom of the press and media and to stop the harassment of journalists, bloggers and reporters, both Egyptian and foreign;


    4. Strongly supports the independent civil society in Egypt as part of the commitments of the new European Neighbourhood policy;


    5. Recalls to the Egyptian authorities that provisions regulating the right to association should be interpreted and implemented in conformity with the relevant international legislation and obligations taken by Egypt, and in particular the Article 22 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, which was ratified by Egypt in 1982;


    6. Is extremely concerned by the new NGO bill proposed by President Morsi on 29 May, which is still under consideration, as it displays a high level of hostility to the right to freedom of association as well as a tendency to impose increased administrative and security control on the work of civil society;


    7. Urges the executive and legislative authorities to postpone the adoption of the law until after next parliamentary elections and to take sufficient time for thorough deliberations on and review of its provisions to ensure that they fully comply with international standards protecting the right to freedom of association; Reminds the Egyptian authorities that the final version of the bill has to fully abide with the Egyptian government's obligations under the international conventions that it has ratified;


    8. Reiterates the EU's commitment to work closely with all stakeholders to ensure that the new NGO law is based on international human rights standards and in close cooperation with NGOs and human rights and pro-democracy groups;


    9. Expresses its full support for the commitment and the important and high quality work carried out by these organisations in support of civil society and the Egyptian people in order to promote peace, democracy and human rights; stresses again the importance of good governance, the fight against corruption, and respect for human rights and fundamental freedoms in Egypt;


    10. Instructs its President to forward this resolution to the Council, the Commission, the High Representative of the Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy/Vice-President of the Commission, the Parliaments and Governments of Member States, the Egyptian authorities, and to all concerned parties in Egypt.