Egyptian Shake-Up Should Spark U.S. Reset in Egypt
Washington, D.C. – Following today’s military intervention in Egypt and the ouster of President Mohamed Morsi, Egypt’s new leadership has a responsibility to prioritize human rights and respect for the rule of law, said Human Rights First. The unrest in Egypt signals that the transition to democracy has stalled and the country must now go back to the beginning of the process of constructing a post-authoritarian, democratic state.
“Egypt’s future depends on avoiding the mistakes of the immediate past,” said Human Rights First’s Brian Dooley. “Since the fall of the Mubarak regime in February 2011, the United States has too often been seen on the wrong side of human rights, supporting the military SCAF regime even as it rounded up protesters and convicted them in military courts and subjected women protesters to sexual assault under the guise of ‘virginity tests.’ The United States should view today’s events as a wake-up call and make clear that it stands on the side of human rights and the rule of law in Egypt and that it will support genuine efforts to build the infrastructure of a new democratic state that will protect the basic rights of all Egyptians.”
What has happened in Egypt may technically be a coup, in that the military has stepped in to forcefully depose an elected leader. However, it should not be seen as an interruption of Egypt’s democratic development. President Morsi and his supporters had already taken the country in an anti-democratic direction and was undermining state institutions, like the judiciary and curtailing the basic rights and freedoms of Egyptians.
Since Morsi’s government came to power, the U.S. government has been seen by many Egyptians as too silent on human rights violations. For example, the United States only recently expressed criticism of the Morsi government’s crackdown on the media and on nongovernmental organizations.
“A new government in Egypt gives Washington a chance to demonstrate to Egyptians exactly what it means when it says it will support democratic and human rights values. Its past support for the repressive Morsi, SCAF and Mubarak governments has made many Egyptians suspicious of U.S. motives. Today’s events present an opportunity for a fundamental repositioning by the United States of its relationship with Egypt,” said Dooley.
The U.S. should make clear it will not support a return to rule by SCAF military council as before, and it should urge the military to quickly appoint a ruling civilian council that reflects the breadth of Egyptian political opinion, should institute a process to reform the constitution—a process that should strip the military of the immunities it granted itself under the constitution in place now—and should set a credible timetable for the holding of new elections for the People’s Assembly and the presidency. Human Rights First notes that the Obama Administration ignored the will of Congress by continuing military assistance to Egypt with a national security waiver despite ongoing human rights violations. It now has a responsibility to ensure that the military does not return to its old repressive practices. The U.S. must be much more proactive in supporting a democratic Egypt in which the rights of all Egyptians are protected.