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March 31, 2015

Obama’s Lift of Hold on Military Equipment to Egypt Sends a Confusing Message on Human Rights

New York City – Following news reports that President Obama has lifted the hold on release of military aid to Egypt, Human Rights First urged the administration to use the United States' long standing bi-lateral security and military relationship with Egypt to advance human rights. The organization also expressed serious concern over reports that the administration will invoke a national security waiver to enable it to sidestep the human rights and democracy conditions attached to the Egypt military aid package by the Congress in the FY 2015 appropriations act. 

“Resuming full military aid to Egypt will send a dangerous message that human rights are not a priority concern of the United States. Egypt’s widespread human rights violations undermine stability and exacerbate political divisions in Egypt, and, on a regional level, harm the multilateral effort to combat violent extremism and terrorism,” said Human Rights First’s Neil Hicks. “We urge the Obama Administration to use its relationship with Egypt to press for an end to human rights violations and for necessary political reforms."

President Obama announced he would be lifting the hold during a phone call today with Egyptian president Abdel Fattah al-Sisi, while also mentioning U.S. concerns about Egypt’s ongoing crackdown against human rights activists and non violent voices of dissent. President Obama informed President Sisi that starting in FY 2018 the United States will restructure the military aid package to better address the “shared challenges to U.S. and Egyptian interests.” 

The hold was originally placed on military aid to Egypt in October 2013 to demonstrate U.S. concern over the military coup which brought President Sisi to power, overthrowing the democratically elected civilian president Mohamed Morsi and leading to the mass killings of pro-Morsi protesters in August 2013. The administration’s original statement announcing the hold said, “We will, however, continue to hold the delivery of certain large-scale military systems and cash assistance to the government pending credible progress toward an inclusive, democratically elected civilian government through free and fair elections.”

“The Sisi government has made little progress in this regard. By releasing the aid even though the conditions set by the administration remain unmet sends a confusing message on human rights,” added Hicks.

For more information or to speak with Hicks contact Mary Elizabeth Margolis at [email protected] or 212-845-5269.