Senator Rand’s Egypt Standoff Unhelpful
Washington, DC – Human Rights First’s Neil Hicks today called Senator Rand Paul’s effort to hold up Senate business until an amendment to suspend U.S. military and economic assistance to Egypt is added to the highway transportation bill “unhelpful and potentially counterproductive.” Senator Rand’s effort is in response to the indictment and investigation of U.S. citizens working for human rights and democracy promotion organizations in Egypt. “The crisis over U.S. funding of human rights and democracy organizations has been manufactured by forces in Egypt that wish to hold back the development of strong, independent civil society organizations and the greater transparency and scrutiny of government practices that such organizations provide. Senator Paul’s proposals play into the hands of those in Egypt who wish to appeal to nationalism and to portray the United States as interfering and seeking to control Egypt’s internal affairs,” Hicks noted. “In fact, if the U.S. took this action, it may further expose and threaten NGOs in Egypt.” Human Rights First has consistently urged the United States to do all it can to advance Egypt’s peaceful democratic transition, including providing needed financial assistance within the framework of conditions set by the Congress in the 2012 appropriations law. Before the 2012 military assistance funds can be released to Egypt, the State Department must already certify that Egypt is meeting certain human rights conditions. Administration officials across the government have rightly made it clear to their Egyptian counterparts that it will be very hard to certify that Egypt is making progress in human rights while it is preparing to prosecute Americans working for human rights and democracy promotion organizations and harassing and intimidating independent Egyptian civil society organizations working in the fields of democracy and human rights. In January, following a trip to Cairo, Human Rights First issued a new report, “Egypt’s Transition to Democracy One Year On: Recommendations for U.S. Policy ,” detailing what actions the United States should take to promote a peaceful democratic transition. The report contains several recommendations for U.S. policy, including practical suggestions for getting beyond the controversy over U.S. support for independent NGOs in Egypt that is being exploited by anti-democratic elements within the Egyptian government. For example, it calls on the U.S. government to negotiate a durable arrangement with the Egyptian authorities that will ensure the long-term stability and integrity of U.S. assistance to independent human rights and democracy organizations in Egypt. To speak with Hicks or for more information about Human Rights First’s work on Egypt, please contact Brenda Bowser Soder at [email protected] or 202-370-3323.