Freedom Forward has joined with the Project on Middle East Democracy (POMED) and over 20 organizations to urge the Biden administration to withhold $320 million in military funds from Egypt’s dictatorship.
(Letter PDF here.)
Dear Secretary Blinken and Mr. Sullivan,
We, the undersigned organizations, are writing to urge the administration not to provide the $320 million in Fiscal Year (FY) 2022 Foreign Military Financing (FMF) to Egypt conditioned on crucial human rights benchmarks, which the Egyptian government has abjectly failed to meet. Over the past two years, the administration’s decision to reprogram a portion of the military aid to Egypt conditioned on human rights has led the Egyptian government to take limited, albeit insufficient, steps to address U.S. concerns, without undermining the bilateral relationship. Withholding the full amount conditioned on human rights will demonstrate the continued importance that the United States places on the Egyptian government adequately addressing the dire human rights crisis and that, to date, it has not done nearly enough.
The administration took the unprecedented step in each of the last two years of withholding $130 million of the $300 million in conditioned FMF due to Egypt’s failure to meet the congressionally mandated human rights conditions attached to the funds. Notably, these decisions contributed to the release of more than 1,000 political prisoners and steps toward closing the cases for some human rights defenders, although many others remain subject to asset freezes and travel bans.
But the Egyptian government’s actions in recent months demonstrate that it has not halted its repression campaign or delivered on commitments to meaningfully improve the human rights situation. The long-delayed National Dialogue and the country’s National Human Rights Strategy, launched in September 2021, have not resulted in meaningful reform despite the government touting these initiatives. At the same time, President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi’s government has continued its merciless crackdown on the press, political opposition, and civil society. In the same period that authorities were touting their release of 1,645 political prisoners, they arbitrarily detained 4,968 others according to local activists, and thousands more have had their pretrial detentions renewed. They have also failed to close the infamous Foreign Funding case, also known as Case 173, which has targeted Egyptian civil society for more than a decade, despite repeated promises. Over the past year, as the State Department’s annual human rights report has documented, the government has systematically restricted the freedoms of expression, association, and assembly; further eroded civic space; blocked additional news websites raising the total number blocked to at least 132; and committed a barrage of egregious rights violations including extrajudicial killings, forced disappearances, arbitrary detentions, and transnational repression.
We urge the administration to withhold the full $320 million in conditioned FMF, as provided for by Congress. The Egyptian government has not taken “sustained and effective steps” to meet the rights and governance conditions attached to $235 million in FMF. It has likewise failed to make “clear and consistent progress in releasing political prisoners, providing detainees with due process of law, and preventing the intimidation and harassment of U.S. citizens,” attached to the remaining $85 million in aid, as evidenced by the increase in arrests and the number of individuals subjected to illegal and arbitrary detention practices, as well as by introducing a new remote pretrial detention hearings system that encompasses flagrant due process violations.
At this pivotal moment, we urge the administration to use the tools provided by Congress to withhold the full amount of conditioned FMF, as respect for human rights is inextricably linked to U.S. national security interests in Egypt and around the world.
Thank you for your consideration.
Amnesty International USA
Belady-An Island for Humanity (BIH)
Cairo Institute for Human Rights Studies (CIHRS)
Center for International Policy (CIP)
Committee for Justice (CFJ)
Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ)
Democracy for the Arab World Now (DAWN)
Egyptian Front for Human Rights (EFHR)
Egyptian Human Rights Forum (EHRF)
The Freedom Initiative
Human Rights First
Human Rights Watch
HuMENA for Human Rights and Civic Engagement
Project on Middle East Democracy (POMED)
Refugees Platform In Egypt (RPE)
The Tahrir Institute for Middle East Policy (TIMEP)