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January 22, 2014

Back to Square One: The U.S. Government and Political Change in Egypt

Human Rights First's report describes how the Egyptian government is increasingly targeting non-violent dissenters through widespread repression in Egypt, stifling basic freedoms and exacerbating the chronic instability that has plagued the country for the past three years. This new report outlines recommendations for the U.S. government to take a new course of action to advance human rights and the rule of law in order to achieve greater stability in this vital country.

Three years after hundreds of thousands of peaceful protesters were in the streets of Cairo and other Egyptian cities calling for more representative government, Egypt continues to be beset by problems of political instability, a fragile economy, religious intolerance, and a large scale crackdown against voices of dissent. The U.S. government, in service of a few narrowly defined goals including maintaining military-to-military cooperation on counter-terrorism, stability in the Suez Canal, continued adherence to the Camp David Accords, and support for the U.S. manufacturing base, has been unwilling to move beyond an approach where it supports the central power in Cairo.

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This new report calls on the U.S. government to:

  • Provide clear, sustained and consistent public statements from Washington on its assessment of the situation in Egypt and the ramifications for U.S. interests, including human rights and democracy;
  • Clarify how U.S. administration officials propose to promote human rights and democracy in Egypt within the legislative framework  of the recently adopted FY14 Omnibus Appropriation, which appears to weaken human rights and democracy conditions attached to U.S. foreign assistance, which is primarily military assistance, to Egypt;
  • Work with its donor partners to establish sizeable, sustained economic incentives for Egypt’s leaders that should be conditioned on Egypt adhering to democratic norms and international human rights standards;
  • Use its vote and influence at the IMF to withhold loans to Egypt until sound economic policies are in place and meaningful progress is made on human rights and the rule of law;
  • Use targeted funding to support civil society efforts to combat human rights abuses and promote an enabling environment that advances religious pluralism and tolerance;
  • Promote clear, uniform conditions for the registration and operation of political parties that agree to be bound by the rules of peaceful, democratic contestation;
  • Push the Egyptian authorities to investigate all incidents of violence against Christians, assaults on their property and institutions, and hold accountable those responsible; and
  • Make available through the Justice Department, resources for prosecutions and police trainings.

Photo: Jonathan Rashad