Human Rights First released a new report detailing the severe crackdown on peaceful dissent and nongovernmental organizations in Egypt under the Sisi government. In the report the organization urges Secretary of State Rex Tillerson to withhold military aid to Egypt until it meets human rights conditions, and comes as Congress reviews its military aid package to Egypt in the FY 2018 appropriation. “How to Protect Civil Society and Promote Stability in Egypt” draws on dozens of interviews conducted in July with Egyptian human rights defenders, civil society activists, foreign diplomats, and others.
“As long as Egyptian authorities suppress peaceful dissent, they are part of the problem of growing instability, not part of the solution,” said the report’s author, Human Rights First’s Brian Dooley. “Enforced disappearances, torture and mass jailing fuel extremism. The U.S. government needs to persuade its allies in Cairo to get off this dangerous path fast. Friends don’t let friends foster terrorism.”
Since President Sisi seized power in a popular coup in 2013, his government has targeted peaceful critics, religious minorities, human rights defenders, and nongovernmental organizations. President Sisi recently ratified a draconian law restricting the work of NGOs, essentially making it a crime to advocate for human rights and development.
Egypt has sided with Bahrain, Saudi Arabia, and the United Arab Emirates against Qatar in the ongoing diplomatic crisis seizing the Gulf region, further complicating the Trump Administration’s relationship with Egyptian government.
Human Rights First’s research trip was a rare occurrence, as the Egyptian government has for the last three years routinely denied international human rights organizations access to the country.
The report offers specific recommendations for the Trump Administration and Congress to protect civil society and religious freedom in Egypt, and to fight extremism, including:
- The State Department should withhold the 15 percent of Foreign Military Funding (FMF) authorized under the FY2016 appropriation act until the Egyptian government introduces extensive human rights reform, including dropping charges in Case 173 (the “foreign funding” case) and halting the implementation of its new anti-NGO law until it is revised to comply with Egypt’s international human rights obligations.
- Urge the elimination of discrimination against religious minorities, and the amendment of the new law on church building.
- Publicly call on the Egyptian government to stop attacks on NGOs and activists, including through state media outlets.
- Congress should consider increasing the percentage of FMF funding tied to human rights conditions in FY 2018 appropriations legislation, and not include a national security waiver that can be used to override the withholding of aid.
- Review the entire aid relationship with Egypt to better address the security and other needs of Egypt and to better serve American interests, and prohibit a reinstatement of cash-flow financing.
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