Egypt Watch

International human rights organisations demand Biden withhold military aid to Sisi

A joint open letter from 14 leading human rights groups and NGOs demanded Joe Biden’s administration not waive human rights conditions on aid to Egypt.

The 14 groups have directed their letter to the US Secretary of State Antony Blinken. The Biden administration is considering a national security waiver to continue aid payments despite Cairo’s appalling human rights record. The letter said: “We write to strongly urge the administration not to use the national security waiver on the $300 million in Foreign Military Financing to Egypt for Fiscal Year 2020. It is conditioned on meeting several human rights standards.”

The US Congress has placed conditions on a portion of the annual $1.3 billion military aid sent to Egypt since 2014. However, due to a failure in certifying improvements in Egypt’s abysmal human rights record, the two previous administrations used a national security waiver provided by Congress to release the conditional aid. The letter pointed out that: “Last month, the State Department’s annual Country Reports on Human Rights Practices 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 organisations highlighted that during his presidential election campaign, Joe Biden promised “no more blank cheques for Trump’s favourite dictator [Egypt’s General Abdel Fattah Al-Sisi].” Having made such a pledge, the groups insisted that “overriding the human rights conditions would, on the contrary, continue the pattern of providing ‘blank cheques’ to the Egyptian government” while arguing that Washington has a real opportunity to put human rights at the centre of the relationship.

The signatories stressed that “Al-Sisi’s regime has continued its consistent pattern of gross human rights violations and has not come close to meeting any of the six legislative conditions related to human rights and the rule of law,” the groups concluded. They considered that by refusing to waive these conditions, the United States would 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 US national security.

The signatories of the letter included: Amnesty International USA, Cairo Institute for Human Rights Studies, Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ), Democracy for the Arab World Now (DAWN), Egyptian Human Rights Forum, EuroMed Rights, Freedom House, Human Rights First, Human Rights Watch (HRW), MENA Rights Group, PEN America, Project on Middle East Democracy (POMED), Reporters Without Borders (RSF), and The Freedom Initiative.