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October 09, 2013

U.S. Should Set Clear Conditions for Egyptian Aid Restoration

Washington, D.C.  – Human Rights First today urged the Obama Administration to clarify the conditions under which it would restore aid to Egypt. Yesterday, the administration decided to suspend most of the annual $1.3 billion in foreign military assistance that the United States provides to Egypt to express disapproval for the violent and repressive policies pursued by the military-backed interim government since it came into office on July 3.

“The policies currently being pursued by the Egyptian authorities are counterproductive,” said Human Rights First’s Neil Hicks. “They are leading Egypt towards internal conflict in which many hundreds have already died, and are undermining efforts to restore Egypt’s economy. The United States should define clearly what reforms it is waiting to see before full U.S. aid is restored.  Simply holding new elections should not be sufficient. In the current situation, elections would likely serve to reinforce divisions, not contribute to national reconciliation.”

Human Rights First notes that the United States should use its long-standing relationship with Egypt, and especially with Egypt’s influential military, to persuade the country’s leaders to change course. For example, those in power should seek reconciliation with their opponents, especially supporters of the deposed elected president Mohamed Morsi, so that an inclusive civilian government can be formed as soon as possible.

“The long-standing U.S. policy of prioritizing a few, narrowly defined, security interests within the bilateral relationship has failed. U.S. policymakers need a new strategy,” observed Hicks. “Security and stability will only be restored in Egypt when a solution is found to the destructive political standoff between the military and the supporters of former president Morsi.  That solution must be grounded in respect for the rule of law and protection for the basic rights and freedoms of all Egyptians, especially for vulnerable religious minority groups, who have increasingly come under attack the political conflict has intensified.”

U.S. efforts to build stability and safeguard vital security interests through promoting human rights and establishing a responsive, representative, inclusive government are likely to be initially met by much skepticism in Egypt. Egyptians on all sides of the political divides have come to distrust U.S. policies that have not been clearly grounded in standing up for universal values.  In fact, the United States has been seen as willing to make accommodation with successive authoritarian regimes in Cairo – from the Mubarak regime to the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces, the Morsi government to the current military-backed interim government.  That pattern of cozy relationships with repressive Egyptian leaders must be broken if the United States is to begin to restore the trust it has lost with the Egyptian people.

While Human Rights First praises the Obama Administration’s decision to halt most aid to Egypt, the organization is concerned by reports that the United States will maintain its support for “counterterrorism” efforts by the Egyptian military in Sinai.  In recent weeks, the Egyptian military has stepped up its operations in Sinai and there have been reports of indiscriminate attacks on the civilian population and of brutal treatment of the people in the area that are unlikely to calm the deteriorating security situation.  The U.S. government must be careful that the military assistance it continues to provide to Egypt will not be used to commit widespread violations against civilians and thereby to escalate conflict and violent instability.

For more information or to speak with Hicks, please contact Brenda Bowser Soder at  [email protected]  or 202-370-3323.