CAIRO – A new law ratified by Egypt's president that imposes unprecedentedly harsh restrictions on NGOs could be "a death sentence" for human rights groups in the country, rights group Amnesty International said Tuesday.
In a statement, it called the law, signed by President Abdel-Fattah el-Sissi a day earlier, "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, the group's North Africa campaign director.
The law comes as part of el-Sissi's wider crackdown on dissent since he rose to power in 2013, when he led a military overthrow of his Islamist predecessor Mohamed Morsi.
Supporters believe that the law is necessary to regulate the groups accused of feeding chaos starting from the 2011 popular uprising that led to the ouster of longtime President Hosni Mubarak.
After the law was approved by parliament in November 2016, Amnesty called on el-Sissi not to sign it due to its conflict with Egypt's constitution and international obligations. But the ratification, the group said, came without addressing any concerns raised by Egyptian or international human rights organizations.
The law comes as el-Sissi is grappling with an insurgency in the northern part of the Sinai Peninsula by Islamic extremists, an economy struggling to keep up with the demands and employment needs of Egypt's surging population, and a sustained campaign of violence against the country's Christian minority.
Amnesty said that just in the past week, repressive measures have intensified against voices critical of el-Sissi's military-backed government.
On May 23, authorities arrested a former presidential candidate, Khaled Ali, on charges he violated public decency, for which he has been released on bail pending trial. Authorities also recently blocked a string of critical websites, including those of prominent news platforms Mada Masr and Daily News Egypt.