President Obama's Approaching Middle East Visit, Speech Is Opportunity to Address Human Rights in Egypt

For Immediate Release

Contact: 

Brenda Bowser Soder
bowsersoderb@humanrightsfirst.org
O -202/370-3323, C – 301/906-4460

President Obama's Approaching Middle East Visit, Speech Is Opportunity to Address Human Rights in Egypt

Human Rights First Issues Blueprint for Promotion of Human Rights in Egypt

NEW YORK - Just days before President Barack Obama’s first official visit to
Egypt and his much-anticipated June 4 speech, Human Rights First (HRF)
is urging the administration to chart a new course in U.S. efforts to
promote human rights in Egypt. 

In How to Promote Human Rights in Egypt, a new HRF
Blueprint issued today, the organization called on the Obama
Administration to develop and implement a comprehensive strategy to
improve basic rights and freedoms for all Egyptians. The Blueprint
recommends a new strategy for human rights promotion, one that focuses
on making the Egyptian government a partner, and builds on commitments
and pledges made by the Egyptian government to improve human rights
conditions. This new approach should also situate U.S. human rights
promotion efforts firmly within the multilateral framework by which
Egypt is bound, rather than relying primarily on unilateral pressure
that Egypt has been able to evade in the past.

“The Bush Administration identified the right problem in seeking to
break from the failed and longstanding policies of ‘excusing and
accommodating the lack of freedom in the Middle East,’ but the task of
creating a new policy remains incomplete,” said Neil Hicks,
International Policy Advisor at HRF. “The Obama Administration must now
finish the job. What President Obama says and does while he is in Egypt
will be a key indicator of the importance the new administration will
accord to human rights promotion globally.”

Today’s Blueprint outlined several key recommendations that could
serve as the impetus for human rights reforms in Egypt, including:

  • The Obama Administration should publicly call on the Egyptian
    government to hold a transparent and contested presidential election in
    2011, a time that may well mark the end of President Mubarak’s 30 year
    term in office, as a first step towards more competitive, inclusive
    elections.
  • President Obama should meet publicly with representatives of
    independent civil society organizations while he is in Egypt and voice
    his support for human rights defenders who face harassment,
    restrictions, baseless prosecutions and defamation in the officially
    controlled media.
  • In an effort to strengthen democracy and improve human rights, the
    Obama Administration should work with the Egyptian government to step
    up programs designed to strengthen institutional checks and balances
    within Egypt that protect against tyranny. These include efforts to
    ensure the rule of law, the independence of the judiciary, freedom of
    the press, freedom of religion and belief, an autonomous civil society,
    protection of vulnerable minority groups and gender equality.
  • The U.S. should urge repeal of Egypt’s near permanent state of
    emergency and oppose efforts by the Egyptian government to retain
    powers to restrict basic rights, such as freedom of expression and
    assembly.

“U.S. policy must respond to the demands of people in Egypt and
throughout the region for more democracy and greater respect for human
rights. President Obama’s speech in Cairo is a perfect opportunity for
this administration to make clear that it stands with those throughout
the region who are working for a better future grounded in respect for
the rule of law and basic rights and freedoms,” Hicks concluded.

To view a PDF version of How to Promote Human Rights in Egypt, visit http://www.humanrightsfirst.org/pdf/how-to-promote-human-rights-in-egypt-090528.pdf .

 

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Human Rights First is a non-profit, nonpartisan international human rights organization based in New York and Washington D.C. Human Rights First believes that building respect for human rights and the rule of law will help ensure the dignity to which every individual is entitled and will stem tyranny, extremism, intolerance, and violence.

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