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February 22, 2013

Kerry Egypt Visit Offers Opportunity to Promote Human Rights, Stability

New York City – Next week, Secretary of State John Kerry makes his first trip to Egypt since assuming his new post.  Human Rights First says the trip offers Secretary Kerry an opportunity to make clear that the United States will work to promote the universal value of human rights through its important bi-lateral relationship with Egypt.

“Secretary Kerry should champion human rights as the only way to achieve lasting and stable democratic progress in Egypt,” said Human Rights First’s Neil Hicks. “The success of Egypt’s fraught transition is inextricably tied to progress towards an inclusive, representative political system, the development of a legitimate government capable of dealing with the challenges facing the country, and respect for the rule of law and protection for human rights and basic freedoms.”

Hicks notes that Secretary Kerry should use his public appearances in Egypt to stress that progress in human rights, which includes protecting religious minorities and advancing women’s rights, is not a condition set forth by the United States, but it forms an essential basis for Egypt to meet the many challenges of its transition. Improvements in these areas are essential if Egypt seeks to receive support from the international community and to attract much-needed investment.

In a memo to Secretary Kerry ahead of his upcoming trip, Hicks also detailed steps the U.S. can take to ensure long term stability in Egypt. He noted, “U.S. policy appears to be fixated on achieving stability in Egypt through an alliance with a government that will protect America’s strategic interests.  Unfortunately, this focus on stability first failed spectacularly with Mubarak, and it is failing now.  Instead of looking for a leader with whom it can return to business as usual in Egypt, the U.S. government should be focused on promoting the emergence in Egypt of a representative government grounded in the rule of law, respect for the universal values of human rights and with the democratic legitimacy that comes through free and fair elections in which all parties compete and a large majority of the electorate participates.  That would be the path to true stability; there simply is no short cut.”

In addition, Hicks observes  that engaging Egypt’s civil society should be a priority for Secretary Kerry and State Department staff.  He said, “Secretary Kerry should also meet with independent civil society groups, as they have requested.  It would send a strong message of America’s support for the universal values of human rights.”

For more information, read Human Rights First’s newly released blueprint How to Make Change in Egypt a Human Rights Success Story. To speak with Hicks, please contact Brenda Bowser Soder at bowsersoderb@humanrightsfirst.org or 202-370-3323.