U.S. Government Must Use Aid Leverage to Prevent Further Human Rights Violations in Egypt
New York City – Human Rights First condemns the excessive violence used by Egyptian military and security forces to break up protests in and around Tahrir Square in central Cairo. At least 11 protesters have been killed since clashes began and more than 500 have been injured. since last Friday, when military police and other security forces attacked a peaceful sit-in demonstration outside the office of the cabinet. These clashes follow on from a similar assault on protesters by military and security forces on November 23 in which more than 30 protesters were killed. Egypt’s ruling military council, the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces (SCAF) has been in control of the country since the removal of former President Hosni Mubarak in February. It bears responsibility for the action of forces under its control. The United States government is a major financial supporter of the Egyptian military. Since the Camp David Accords, the Egyptian government and military have received tens of billions of dollars of U.S. aid. As the $1 trillion omnibus spending bill passes in to law, Human Rights First welcomes the unprecedented conditionality of foreign assistance to the Government of Egypt on certification by the Secretary of State that the government is supporting human rights reforms, namely the protection of freedom of expression, association, religion, and due process of law, and the holding of free and fair elections. “Conditioning U.S. assistance to the Government of Egypt on the human rights performance of the government is a positive change in U.S. policy,” said Human Rights First’s Neil Hicks. “Egypt’s mass protest movement that overthrew a president proved that military oppression and dictatorship do not bring stability; it is therefore disturbing that the SCAF appear to be returning to old, discredited methods of rule,” noted Hicks. “The U.S. government must use the influence it exercises through its aid relationship with the Egyptian military to advance U.S. interests in promoting human rights and democracy.” The efficacy of the conditions included in the appropriations law will depend on the administration’s commitment to engage them. “The administration has two opportunities to get U.S. policy right on this legislation,” said Hicks. “The first one is to communicate to the Government of Egypt that the U.S. government is now operating under new laws that will require cooperation from the Egyptian authorities if aid is to continue. The second is to stand firm that if the Secretary cannot certify that basic human rights are protected by the Government of Egypt, she will not invoke the authority to waive the conditions in the “national security interest of the United States.” “If the Administration allows aid to go forward while the Egyptian authorities are brazenly failing to meet the conditions included in the law, it will undermine any statements by U.S. leaders claiming to support the advancement of human rights and democracy in Egypt and the broader region,” noted Hicks.