President Obama Should Meet with President Morsi to Signify Continuing Support for Democratic Transition in Egypt
New York City – Human Rights First today said that President Barack Obama should meet with Egypt’s newly elected president, Mohamed Morsi, during his upcoming visit to the United States. Morsi is scheduled to visit New York for the United Nations General Assembly, his first visit to the United States since his election. “It would be a positive gesture for President Obama to meet privately with Egypt’s President at this time,” said Human Rights First’s Neil Hicks. “At a time when relations between the United States and Egypt – an important regional ally – have been strained because of violent protests over an offensive film that disparaged the Prophet Mohamed, it would be helpful for President Obama to send the message that the United States continues to support democratic transition in Egypt.” Hicks notes that an in person meeting between President Obama and President Morsi would be symbolically important since, despite all concerns about his origins in the Muslim Brotherhood, he came to power through a peaceful, fair electoral process that marked an important step forward in Egypt’s transition from authoritarianism. “For decades, the U.S. government gave largely uncritical support to repressive, authoritarian governments in Cairo, it would be a missed opportunity for President Obama not to meet with Egypt’s first ever democratically elected president,” observed Hicks. The United States has every interest in supporting a successful, peaceful democratic transition in Egypt. Continuing instability in Egypt or a return to military backed authoritarianism would both be far worse options for the United States and would undermine hopes for human rights progress throughout the region. In their meetings with President Morsi, U.S. leaders should make clear that U.S. support is inextricably tied to democratic progress in Egypt, including strengthening legal safeguards for freedom of expression, freedom of the press and Internet freedom and protecting the rights of women and religious minorities. Restrictions on independent civil society organizations, including human rights organization critical of government policies should be eased and U.S. leaders should encourage President Morsi to move forward with plans to strengthen judicial independence. “U.S. leaders should make these observations in a spirit of partnership and mutual respect. Advancing the rule of law and protecting basic freedom are universally recognized core principles essential to development, justice and social peace,” concluded Hicks.