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Leading rights groups urge US not to waive human rights conditions on aid to Egypt

April 23, 2021 at 12:11 pm

A “40,000 Detainees Without Charge, Children, Girls, Youth” poster held by demonstrators during a protest marking the fourth anniversary of Rabaa Al-Adawiya massacre in Times Square, New York, United States on 13 August 2017 [Mohammed Elshamy/Anadolu Agency]

A coalition of 14 of the leading human rights groups and NGOs, including Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch, have called on US Secretary of State Antony Blinken not to waive human rights conditions on aid to Egypt. The appeal has been made in a letter sent to Blinken as the Biden administration considers a national security waiver to continue aid payments despite Cairo’s appalling human rights record.

Since 2014 the US Congress has placed conditions on a portion of the annual $1.3 billion military aid sent to Egypt. However, due to a failure in certifying improvements in Egypt’s abysmal human rights record, the two previous administrations used a national security waiver provided by Congress to release the conditional aid.

The groups’ letter drew attention to Egypt’s poor human rights record and Biden’s pledge to make human rights a number one priority. It urged the US not to carry on as though it was simply business as usual.

Read: Rights group warns of rising number of prisons in Egypt

The groups pointed out that the State Department’s annual Country Reports on Human Rights Practices, released last month, “identified a litany of serious violations of human rights by Egyptian authorities. These include consistent attacks on the freedom of expression; violations of the rule of law; extrajudicial killings and forced disappearances; widespread use of arbitrary detention; and politically motivated reprisals against individuals located outside the country.”

They also noted that during his presidential election campaign, Joe Biden promised “no more blank cheques for Trump’s favourite dictator [Egypt’s Abdel Fattah Al-Sisi].” Having made such a pledge, the groups insisted that “overriding the human rights conditions would, on the contrary, continue the pattern of providing ‘blank cheques’ to the Egyptian government” while arguing that Washington has a real opportunity to put human rights at the centre of the relationship.

Read: Amnesty urges US’ Biden to call out human rights abuses in Egypt

“President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi’s government has continued its consistent pattern of gross human rights violations, and has not come close to meeting any of the six legislative conditions related to human rights and the rule of law,” the groups concluded. “By refusing to waive these conditions, the United States will send a clear message that it is serious about its commitment to supporting human rights abroad, that it will follow through on its promises, and that respect for human rights is inextricably linked to US national security.”

The signatories of the letter were:

Amnesty International USA

Cairo Institute for Human Rights Studies

Committee to Project Journalists

Democracy for the Arab World Now (DAWN)

Egyptian Human Rights Forum

EuroMed Rights

Freedom House

Human Rights First

Human Rights Watch

MENA Rights Group

PEN America

Project on Middle East Democracy (POMED)

Reporters Without Borders (RSF)

The Freedom Initiative