U.S. Must Stand by NGOs in Egypt
Washington, DC – Human Rights First today condemned Egypt’s announced prosecution of 19 Americans and dozens of others caught up in a politically-motivated investigation into the financing of pro-democracy Egyptian NGOs. The group noted that the United States must make clear that the prosecutions run counter to a peaceful transition to democracy in Egypt and that such actions could threaten the relationship between the U.S. and Egypt. “Strong NGOs are an essential part of any democracy,” said Human Rights First’s Brian Dooley. “Egypt must recognize that attacks on these groups – whether its government raids on offices or the pursuit of politically-motivated charges in court – undermines its relationship with the U.S. and further destabilizes the transition to democratic rule. This is not the new Egypt envisioned by those who flooded the streets of Cairo last year, or by those in the international community who welcomed the revolution.” Human Rights First recently spent time in Cairo speaking with members of the NGO community, including human rights NGOs that have come under unprecedented attack from the authorities in recent weeks. These attacks, accompanied by hostile defamatory statements from government officials and in the government controlled media, have created a hostile environment for NGO activity. Human Rights First notes that today’s announcement that 19 Americans and dozens more will stand trial – including Sam LaHood, son of U.S. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood – demonstrates that the ruling authorities have little intention of upholding the rights of Egyptian NGOs. In January, following this most recent trip, 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. For more information about Human Rights First’s work in Egypt, please contact Brenda Bowser Soder at [email protected] or 202-370-3323.