For Immediate Release: February 15, 2012
New York City – Human Rights First today voiced support for a bi-partisan Senate resolution introduced today by Senator John Kerry with Senators Inhofe, Boxer, and Durbin (S Res 372), a measure that reiterates U.S. support for independent civil society organizations in Egypt and for U.S. aid to facilitate their legitimate activities that are a critical part of Egypt’s transition to democracy. It also reiterates the conditions attached to U.S. military assistance in the 2012 Consolidated Appropriations Act and urges the Egyptian authorities to halt the harassment of democracy and human rights organizations.
According to Human Rights First’s Neil Hicks, “As the United States seeks a solution to the prosecutions against 43 activists in Egypt working for human rights and democracy, including 19 Americans, some in Cairo are seeking to benefit politically from the tension in U.S. – Egyptian relations. Among them are the Minister of Planning and International Cooperation Faiza Aboul Naga and the headline writers of the state controlled newspapers Al-Ahram and Al-Gomhouriya,. How the U.S. responds to them will have long term consequences for U.S. relations with a key regional ally.”
He continues, “Criticizing the United States and gratuitously bringing in Israel and the ‘Jewish lobby’ as Minster Aboul Naga has done is popular with many Egyptians, unfortunately,” observed Human Rights First’s Neil Hicks. “The more U.S. policy makers threaten to punish Egypt for its actions the more credit Aboul Naga and her supporters can claim for standing up to the American bully. This image is perhaps even more potent at a time of renewed Egyptian pride and search for its identity as a regional leader of revolutionary change. The ongoing controversy over funding of democracy and human rights groups is manufactured and it is provocative; it was intended to be and U.S. policy makers should not allow themselves to be provoked. Making threats to immediately suspend all U.S. foreign assistance is unhelpful and potentially counterproductive for American citizens facing imminent trial in Egypt and for scores of Egyptian civil society activists who are now the target of threats and investigations.“
Hicks also notes that that there may be a judicial solution to this crisis. The Egyptian judiciary prides itself on its independence and its adherence to the rule of law and these cases may get thrown out in court. In the meantime, United States actions should remain calibrated for impact, but also mindful of the political drama they are playing into. He adds that there is a scarcity of options.
Hicks concludes, “This Kerry resolution makes clear the U.S. government’s support for the Egyptian people and their aspirations for democratic government and avoids direct threats that risk being exploited by the enemies of human rights and democracy in Egypt.”