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 picture taken on July 26, 2018 shows Egyptian policemen stand guarding a street in the North Sinai provincial capital of El-Arish. (Photo: Khaled Desouki/AFP via Getty Images)

Egyptian security forces watch over a street in the North Sinai capital of El-Arish on July 26, 2018. (Photo: Khaled Desouki/AFP via Getty Images)

Groups Urge Blinken to Keep Human Rights Conditions on US Military Aid to Egypt

The NGOs said in a letter that refusing to waive conditions "will send a clear message" that the Biden administration "is serious about its commitment to supporting human rights abroad."

Brett Wilkins

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."

"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."

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. 

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."

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