Secretary Kerry Should Raise Human Rights Concerns During Visit to Cairo
Washington, D.C. – Human Rights First today urged Secretary of State John Kerry to publicly raise concern over the Egyptian government’s ongoing human rights abuses during his visit to Cairo. Secretary Kerry is scheduled to travel to Cairo to participate in an international conference for Gaza reconstruction on October 12.
“Secretary Kerry has an important opportunity to publicly speak out against the Egyptian government’s denial of basic rights and freedoms to its people, and to make clear that the foreign policy goals of the United States require stable allies that respect human rights and the rule of law,” said Human Rights First’s Tad Stahnke. “Instances of violence and terrorism in Egypt have increased since President Sisi took power and began a violent crackdown on political opponents, fueling radicalization, and shutting down avenues for peaceful political dissent. Secretary Kerry should leave no doubt that the United States is concerned and expects the Egyptian government to end its widespread and counterproductive human rights violations.”
In recent months, the Egyptian government has led a campaign to quash political dissent through excessive use of force against protesters, imprisonment of thousands of political dissidents and several journalists, and unfair trials leading to harsh sentences. The crackdown has left more than 2000 protesters dead while tens of thousands more are in prison, many detained without charge for extended periods and subjected to torture and inhumane conditions. In September of this year, President Sisi signed into law harsh new penalties targeting human rights activists and civil society groups that accept foreign funds for activities deemed to “harm the national interest.”
Additionally, the Egyptian regime has begun a systematic campaign targeting members of the lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) community, using social media and other tools to hunt down, arrest, and prosecute people under “morality” laws.
The United States has certain vital interests that require cooperation with the Egyptian government. However, failing to speak out clearly against violations of human rights in Egypt will not advance the long term interests of the bilateral relationship, but will signal to Egypt’s leaders and its people that the United States approves of Sisi’s violent authoritarianism. Continuing on this path will only fuel the extremism that the United States and its regional partners are trying to defeat.
Human Rights First continues to urge the United States to reshape its side of the bilateral relationship with Egypt to promote a path toward stability and a human rights respecting democracy in Egypt. The organization also urges the United States to honor the pledge made by President Obama last month in New York to 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.