Citing the U.S. State Department's own highly critical assessment of Egypt's rights record, a coalition of 14 leading NGOs on Thursday implored Secretary of State Antony Blinken not to waive human rights conditions on aid to the North African country's military regime.
"This is a genuine opportunity for the administration to put human rights at the center of the relationship."
—Human rights groups' letter
In an open letter to Blinken, groups including Amnesty International USA, the Committee to Protect Journalists, Human Rights Watch, and Reporters Without Borders "strongly urge" the Biden administration "not to use the national security waiver on the $300 million in foreign military financing to Egypt... that is conditioned on meeting several human rights standards."
While the letter commends the State Department for expressing concerns about Egypt's human rights violations and praises Blinken for telling Egyptian Foreign Minister Shoukry that human rights "would be central to the U.S.-Egypt bilateral relationship," it notes that the department's latest annual human rights report for the country "identified a litany of serious violations of human rights by Egyptian authorities."
CPJ Thursday joined 13 other civil society groups in sending an open letter to @SecBlinken and @JakeSullivan46, urging the @JoeBiden administration not to waive human rights conditions in sending military aid to Egypt for FY2020 https://t.co/iJZy47ujfI@StateDept @POTUS @CPJMENA pic.twitter.com/rEXRhnnplb
— Committee to Protect Journalists (@pressfreedom) April 23, 2021
"These include consistent attacks on the freedom of expression, violations of the rule of law, extrajudicial killings and forced disappearances, widespread use of arbitrary detention, and politically motivated reprisals against individuals located outside the country," the letter states.
"In response to such abuses, since 2014 Congress has conditioned a portion of the $1.3 billion of annual military aid to Egypt," it continues. "Unable to certify improvements in Egypt's abysmal human rights record, the two previous administrations have used a national security waiver provided by Congress each year to release the conditioned portion of military aid."
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The letter asserts that "by using the waiver, the United States signals that the Egyptian government will not be held accountable for its human rights abuses and that it can continue to violate human rights standards without consequence."
"During his campaign for president, then-candidate Joe Biden promised 'no more blank checks for [Donald] Trump's favorite dictator,'" it added, a reference to the moniker reportedly bestowed upon Egyptian President Abdel Fattah Al-Sisi by the former U.S. president.
El Beblawi is one of Egypt's most notorious human rights abusers and accused of playing a role in the torture of @soltan, an American citizen. Why is Biden preventing his accountability in court? NEW @sarahleah1 @Mikeyeis https://t.co/KvXaJZZzGC
— Responsible Statecraft (@RStatecraft) April 23, 2021
Despite Biden's tough talk, the State Department earlier this year said it was seeking to sell $200 million worth of Raytheon missiles to Egypt. The announcement of the proposed sale came on the same day that the Biden administration published a statement condemning arbitrary detention in Egypt and just days after relatives of a prominent Egyptian American dissident were arbitrarily jailed.
"Overriding the human rights conditions would, on the contrary, continue the pattern of providing 'blank checks' to the Egyptian government," the letter argues. "This is a genuine opportunity for the administration to put human rights at the center of the relationship."
The letter concludes that by refusing to waive human rights conditions on military aid to Egypt, "the United States will send a clear message that it is serious about its commitment to supporting human rights abroad, that it will follow through on its promises, and that respect for human rights is inextricably linked to U.S. national security."