Bilateral Relationship with New Egyptian Government Should Prioritize Human Rights
New York City – Human Rights First today urged the U.S. government to link its support of the Egyptian government to progress on the protection of basic human rights and freedoms. As Egypt’s new President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi forms his new administration, the United States should press the Egyptian government to implement reforms that will make government institutions, including the military and security forces, responsive and accountable to the people they serve.
“As President Sisi takes office, the United States faces many challenges in implementing a policy that, so far, has appeared to be rooted in ambiguities, if not outright contradictions,” said Human Rights First’s Neil Hicks. “On the one hand, the administration states that it is committed to working with President Sisi to advance what it refers to as ‘our strategic partnership’ with Egypt. On the other hand, the administration has reiterated its support for ‘the rule of law, civil liberties and open political discourse’ as the foundation of true democracy.”
Since Sisi led the military overthrow of President Morsi in July 2013, basic rights and freedoms in Egypt have been seriously eroded. Despite promises to rule in an inclusive manner, Sisi has given no indication that he will exercise his powers in accordance with the rights and freedoms provided for in Egyptian and international law.
In recent months, the Egyptian government under Sisi has led a campaign to quash political dissent and violence through excessive use of force against protesters, indiscriminate imprisonment of thousands of political dissenters, and unfair trials leading to harsh sentences. These actions have added to growing unrest and political instability in the country and are undermining the credibility of the judiciary as an independent institution capable of upholding the rule of law. Egypt’s economy has suffered from a decrease in international investment, trade, and tourism spurred by the ongoing political polarization and unrest.
“Sisi’s authoritarian path will lead only to further political polarization, instability and violence. The return to normality, social peace, and economic recovery for which the great majority of Egyptians aspire will remain a distant hope,” noted Hicks. “To be a true friend to its important strategic partner the United States must not back down from speaking the truth about the dire consequences of continuing repression and disregard of basic rights and freedoms in Egypt. The United States must make good on its pledge to support the democratic aspirations of the Egyptian people.”
Human Rights First urges the United States to reshape its side of the bilateral relationship with Egypt to better meet U.S. security interests as well as the needs of the Egyptian people. The United States must continue and enhance its support for independent civil society organizations, especially those seeking to promote and defend human rights and to hold the government to account. The U.S. government should also promote and defend women’s rights, freedom of expression and other basic rights and freedoms.