For Immediate Release: March 29, 2013
Washington, D.C. – Human Rights First today issued a report recommending steps the U.S. government can take to repair its relationship with Egyptian civil society groups, some of which has become increasingly critical of U.S. policies. Today’s report comes as the Egyptian authorities continue to press legislation to restrict NGO activity.
“The U.S. government should quickly, forcefully, and publicly voice its opposition to this draconian legislation before it is too late,” said Human Rights First’s Brian Dooley. “Various proposed versions of this new legislation would suppress the fundamental freedoms necessary for the functioning of a healthy civil society. Speaking out against the law is an opportunity for the United States to show that it is prepared to criticize President Morsi and stand with civil society despite the risks of its message being distorted for political gain by others.”
Secretary Kerry’s trip to Cairo earlier this month shows some progress in the United States’ engagement with Egyptian civil society groups, the report notes. However, the U.S. government may have to accept that trust with the Egyptian public may take a long time to establish, and will only be achieved through consistent support for principles such as the advancement of women’s rights and the rights of religious minorities. The U.S. government should be clear in articulating to President Morsi that protections for these groups and other minorities must be safeguarded, and a review of the Egyptian constitution is a good place to start this.”
The report recommends other steps the U.S. government can take to visibly support Egyptians who struggle to advance democracy and human rights, including:
- Urge that the military budget come under civilian oversight.
- Speak out publicly about human rights violations caused by the police and call for urgent and fundamental reform and accountability, while offering support in training and technical assistance.
- Be more transparent about why it wants to engage with human rights activists.
- Share information with human rights defenders and discuss strategies to improve human rights conditions.
- Publicly urge a review of the more controversial elements of the electoral laws.
- Be much more forceful in expressing doubts about the feasibility of the constitution forming the basis of a democratic state and in urging President Morsi to take steps both to amend the document and to gather support for it from a much broader section of Egyptian society.
- Issue statements and hold events with other likeminded governments on human rights issues of shared concern.