For Immediate Release: October 27, 2010
Washington, DC –Human Rights First is urging President Obama to publicly call on Egyptian authorities to open the nation’s upcoming People’s Assembly parliamentary elections to international monitors. The group notes that the Nov. 28 elections, as well as the presidential elections slated for 2011 and the anticipated end of President Hosni Mubarak’s three decades in office, represent a pivotal moment in Egypt’s political development.
“The Egyptian government’s failure to live up to its repeated commitments to reform in the fields of human rights and democracy has made Egypt less stable, successful and secure and has fueled frustration and unrest among Egypt’s people,” wrote Human Rights First President and CEO Elisa Massimino in a letter to President Barack Obama. “The government’s poor record on human rights and democracy also contributes to resentment of America, which is blamed by many in Egypt for offering uncritical support to a repressive governing authority that disregards the rule of law and is implicated in serious violations of human rights, including torture, police brutality and arbitrary detention. Egypt’s succession process is an opportunity for the United States to put its relations with the Egyptian government on a more positive footing that will better serve the interests of both peoples.”
Last month in his speech to the United Nations General Assembly, President Obama voiced America’s commitment to universal human rights and said that commitment is “a matter of moral and pragmatic necessity.” President Obama also stressed the importance of “more open and accountable” government, saying that it is “time for every member state to open its elections to international monitors.” In its letter, Human Rights First urged the President to reinforce that message by pushing for Egypt to allow international monitors for its upcoming elections.
According to Human Rights First, leading U.S. organizations with extensive experience in election monitoring, including the National Democratic Institute and the International Republican Institute, have formally requested permission from the Egyptian authorities to send international monitors, but have as yet received no response.
Massimino’s letter to President Obama observed, “In your June 2009 speech in Cairo, you noted your commitment ‘to governments that reflect the will of the people.’ Free and fair elections are a vital part of establishing such governments. Egypt has a long record of holding rigged elections. The Egyptian authorities have already taken steps in advance of next month’s elections, including weakening official supervision of the polls and restricting basic freedoms of assembly and expression for the opposition, independent journalists, and human rights and democracy activists that do not bode well for their fairness or transparency.”
Human Rights First has been in close contact with Egyptian civil society activists, who are planning to carry out their own independent monitoring, some with support from U.S. foreign assistance agencies. These activists would welcome the presence of international monitors and believe the presence of such monitors would provide a degree of protection against attacks as they carry out their work. International monitors would also deter Egyptian authorities from engaging in brazen electoral fraud. In addition, credible monitoring of the upcoming parliamentary elections would signal to the Egyptian government that the presidential elections next year must be free and fair.
Read the letter. For more information about Human Rights First’s work with human rights defenders in Egypt, visit http://www.humanrightsfirst.org/defenders/hrd_egypt/elections.aspx.