For Immediate Release: January 26, 2012
New York City – One year ago today tens of thousands of peaceful protesters were in the streets of Cairo and other Egyptian cities calling for more representative government. After 18 days of growing mass protests, Hosni Mubarak stood down as president. Human Rights First’s Neil Hicks today released a report that details the situation in Egypt now as it tries to transition into democratic rule. It also lays out recommendations for the U.S. government as it seeks to help aid the transition.
The new report, “Egypt’s Transition to Democracy One Year On: Recommendations for U.S. Policy ,” comes one week after Hicks travelled to Egypt to meet with members of civil society groups and democratic activists to discuss concrete actions the United States should take to promote a peaceful democratic transition. “The U.S. government should now focus on delivering a sustained clear message about its policies and goals in Egypt, one that emphasizes U.S. support for civilian democratic rule,” said Hicks. “The only way to advance democracy is by implementing the democratic process and building safeguards for democratic rights and freedoms as the process moves forward,” added Hicks.
Human Rights First 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. Just today Sam LaHood, son of U.S. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood, was barred from leaving Cairo because his work with pro-democracy groups in Egypt. To address these problems, 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.
“Egypt is the cornerstone of the Arab Spring; a successful democratic transition there would provide the U.S.with a democratic partner in the heart of the Arab world,” concluded Hicks. “The U.S.government must choose between backing the democratic transition, with all its uncertainties, or else seeing Egypt drift into instability under a more brutal, less competent form of authoritarianism.”