Washington, D.C. – Human Rights First today issued a new blueprint titled, “How to Prevent Egypt Slipping into a Deepening Crisis,” detailing how the U.S. government should use its influence, including its aid package, to persuade the Egyptian government of President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi to turn away from the authoritarian path it has followed since coming to power in July 2013.
“The current clampdown on basic rights and freedoms, especially attacks on independent civil society activists, only fuels further instability, makes finding a resolution to the many challenges facing Egypt increasingly difficult,” said Human Rights First’s Brian Dooley, the author of today’s blueprint. “The United States has several opportunities to persuade the Egyptian regime to lift its repression, including conditioning its military aid on progress in human rights and democracy and calling on authorities to stop their assault on civil society.”
The period since President Sisi’s military-backed regime took power in Egypt has seen unprecedented levels of state violence to suppress street protests and opposition to the government, leading to the deaths of thousands of protesters. Thousands more have been detained and held in prison on flimsy charges and with little access to a fair legal process. The government has imposed draconian restrictions on the right to non-violent public protest, presided over a severe curtailment of freedom of expression, and placed limits on freedom of the press. In recent months, the Egyptian government has mounted a concerted campaign against independent civil society, culminating with the threat of heavy prison against leaders of independent human rights organizations.
The blueprint outlines the following recommendations for the U.S. government to press Egypt to move toward a rights-respecting democracy. The United States should:
- Press the Egyptian government to stop attacks on NGOs and activists, including through state media outlets;
- Press the Egyptian government to announce a moratorium on NGO closures, raids or prosecutions of NGO leaders or staff member pending the adoption of a new NGO law by (the as-yet-unelected) parliament;
- Press the Egyptian government to repeal the notorious anti-protest law and immediately release all detainees who are currently detained for the peaceful expression of their views;
- Refrain from making certifications with respect to the release of holds currently placed on military aid about democratic progress that have no basis in reality; and
- Make clear that Egyptian parliamentary elections, promised for March 2015, are not sufficient evidence of transition to democracy.
Conditions are far worse in Egypt now than they were in previous years and this should be reflected in resolutions adopted by Congress. In the current round of foreign aid appropriations Congress should not do less to express concern about human rights and democratic progress in Egypt than it has previously. Congress should also attach conditions to new aid based on progress on human rights and democracy, and not re-attach a national security waiver to Egypt’s foreign assistance package that have previously been used to evade raising difficult issues about human rights violations in Egypt.
This blueprint comes as Congress considers new language in the omnibus appropriations resolution that would allow the administration to waive human rights conditions attached to aid to Egypt on national security grounds. The waiver, which had been excluded from last year’s law, was added back in to the bill yesterday.
“Congress should not be making it easier for the administration to avoid confronting the issue in its dealings with the Egyptian government. Washington should also make clear that it will condition financial support not just on economic reforms, but also on progress on human rights,” added Dooley.
Human Rights First also urges the U.S. government to use the economic summit scheduled for March 2015 to provide a financial rescue package for Egypt as a forum to encourage the Sisi government to fight corruption.