As Egyptian leader Abdel Fattah al-Sisi attends the UN General Assembly this week—and meets today with President Donald Trump—he likely will aim to divert attention from this weekend’s anti-regime protests in Cairo and several other cities. The rare demonstrations came in response to widely publicized allegations of corruption by al-Sisi, his family, and senior military officials.
As al-Sisi seeks to highlight his government’s “positive achievements,” he may tout the new NGO law he ratified in August. Facing international and domestic criticism over a draconian 2017 NGO law—and the withholding of U.S. aid—al-Sisi agreed last year to reform the legal framework for civil society.
Egyptian officials have boasted that the 2019 law is a significant improvement, but as a new POMED fact sheet explains, this law is not much different from the one it replaced. It continues to grant the state nearly unchecked powers to repress civil society, to criminalize legitimate civic activity, and to violate Egypt’s international human rights obligations.
The United States should urge al-Sisi to comply with international norms of freedom of association and assembly by making significant improvements to the NGO law and allowing peaceful demonstrations.