Washington — Biden Administration Waives Rights Conditions; Only Small Fraction of Aid Withheld
The Biden administration's decision to waive human rights conditions to provide nearly the full amount of security assistance to Egypt disregards the Egyptian government's ongoing repressive policies, Human Rights Watch said today.
The State Department announced on September 14, 2023 that the United States government government would provide the $235 million, which could have been withheld, in Fiscal Year 2022 Foreign Military Financing. This decision contrasts with the administration's decisions over the previous two years, when it withheld $130 million in Foreign Military Financing to Egypt, citing the Egyptian government's failure to meet a broad range of human rights conditions. US officials told the media that while US concerns for human rights in Egypt remain, Secretary of State Antony Blinken "determined that it is in the US national security interest to waive certain human rights related conditions."
"The Biden administration's decision to provide the full amount of security assistance is at odds with the Egyptian government's attacks on human rights," said Nicole Widdersheim, deputy Washington director at Human Rights Watch. "US officials are creating a false choice between national security and human rights, and undermining the president's pledge to put human rights at the center of US foreign policy."
In March 2022, the US Congress conditioned $235 million in Foreign Military Financing for Fiscal Year 2022 on the Egyptian government taking several actions. They included "sustained and effective steps" to strengthen human rights, protect freedom of expression, association, and assembly, and hold security forces accountable. Separately, the appropriations legislation mandates Congress to withhold an additional $85 million if the Egyptian government does not make strides in "releasing political prisoners, providing detainees with due process, and preventing the intimidation and harassment of American citizens." The Biden administration withheld that $85 million due to the lack of progress in these areas.
Over the past year, the Egyptian government has been responsible for a range of rights violations, including:
- Arbitrary detentions, wrongful prosecutions, and harsh sentences targeting dissidents and activists in retaliation for their peaceful criticism of the government.
- Onerous restrictions on the registration and operation of nongovernmental organizations based on several restrictive laws, including the 2019 NGO law.
- Imposed limits on electricity use with daily power cutbacks nationwide that put people's economic and social rights at risk. At the same time, the military has taken on an ever-expanding and unaccountable role in the economy.
- Lack of accountability for ongoing and past military and police abuses, including war crimes in North Sinai.
- Turning away civilians fleeing the armed conflict in Sudan by imposing new entry requirements.
"Egypt's human rights record remains abysmal in all the ways Congress cared about when conditioning US aid," Widdersheim said. "The Biden administration should base its relationship with Cairo on principled and consistent human rights values that prioritize the Egyptian people's rights over their repressive government."