State Department Reportedly Lifting Holds on Military Aid to Egypt
Washington, D.C.—In response to reports that the State Department will lift its hold on $195 million in military aid to Egypt despite the country’s abysmal human rights record, Human Rights First’s Brian Dooley, who was in Egypt last week researching a new report on the targeting of civil society, issued the following statement:
Lifting the hold on a limited amount of military aid will only encourage the Egyptian government’s repression. Overall, the Egyptian government’s denial of human rights to its people has continued unabated since last year, and lifting the hold squanders Washington’s leverage on the Sisi regime. Repression is breeding resentment, and in some cases radicalization, which ultimately will further destabilize Egypt and undermine American interests. This is bad business for the United States and an alarming move for Egyptian rights. Activists I recently met with not only urged the U.S. government not to lift the hold, but to impose more human rights conditions on future aid.
Last year, Human Rights First called for the U.S. government to use the$1.3 billion in military aid given to Egypt annually to leverage significant improvements on human rights. In August 2017, the State Department denied $95.7 million in Foreign Military Financing and Economic Support Funds in response to Egypt’s failure to advance democracy and human rights. Separately, it withheld $195 million in Foreign Military Financing rather than certify that that the Egyptian government was making progress. Today’s reported announcement indicates that those previously withheld funds are to be released to the Egyptian government.
Since Egyptian President Sisi seized power in a popular coup in 2013, his government has targeted peaceful critics, religious minorities, human rights defenders, and nongovernmental organizations. President Sisi recently ratified a draconian law restricting the work of NGOs, essentially making it a crime to advocate for human rights and development. ISIS successfully radicalizes and recruits in Egyptian prisons, which hold tens of thousands of political prisoners. The country’s police and security service officials routinely torture detainees held on politically-motivated grounds with techniques including electric shocks, beatings, and rape. In the last week, the government announced further restrictions on the use of social media, and Egypt’s parliament passed a new law to give senior military commanders immunity from prosecution for the killing of protestors in 2013.
“This is a bad transaction for the Trump Administration, getting so little in return for $195 million. Secretary Pompeo should have pushed for much more progress on human rights. Given that he won’t, Congress should step in and require that progress be made before additional funds are handed over.” added Dooley.