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New report details deteriorating human rights conditions in Egypt

US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo (R) walks with Egyptian Foreign Minister Sameh Shoukry at the State Department in Washington, DC, 8 August 2018
US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo (R) walks with Egyptian Foreign Minister Sameh Shoukry at the State Department in Washington, DC, 8 August 2018

JIM WATSON/AFP/Getty Images

This statement was originally published on cihrs.org on 20 September 2018.

Human Rights First and the Cairo Institute for Human Rights Studies (CIHRS) today released a new report detailing the severe crackdown on peaceful dissent and nongovernmental organizations in Egypt under the government of President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi. The new report, Aiding Repression in Egypt: Why the U.S. Needs to Keep Human Rights Conditions on Military Aid is based on a Human Rights First research trip undertaken in recent weeks, and follows decisions by Secretary of State Mike Pompeo to release holds on conditional Foreign Military Funding (FMF) to Egypt despite a deteriorating human rights conditions in the country.

"The Trump Administration's record on Egypt has been one step forward, ten steps back," said Human Rights First's Brian Dooley. "Last year, in a positive development, it suspended military aid to Cairo on human rights grounds, but has now lifted that hold and released even more aid with no strings attached. Its failure to focus on an increasingly erratic government in an increasingly volatile region is recklessly negligent. Congress must step in and put real conditions on further aid in the FY 2019 Appropriations Act."

Today's report details the human rights situation in Egypt, offers analysis of the impact of the lifting of aid holds by Secretary Pompeo, and provides specific recommendations for the Trump Administration and Congress on how they can protect civil society and religious freedom in Egypt, and fight extremism.

In July, Secretary Pompeo lifted holds on US$195 million in Fiscal Year 2016 FMF to Egypt that had been suspended by his predecessor, former secretary Rex Tillerson, partly on human rights grounds. Earlier this month, Pompeo approved the release of an additional $195 million.

"The decision to release this money to Egypt's repressive government, despite no progress on human rights, will encourage that government to jail and torture its political opposition and non-violent critics. It will do nothing to prompt the Sisi government to put an end to increasing violent attacks on the minority Christian community or to address institutionalized discrimination in Egyptian society," added Neil Hicks of the Cairo Institute for Human Rights Studies.

Since President Sisi seized power five years ago, his government has targeted peaceful critics, including human rights defenders and nongovernmental organizations. Sisi recently ratified a draconian law restricting the work of NGOs, essentially making it a crime to promote human rights and development free from government control. The country's police and security service officials routinely torture political detainees with techniques including electric shocks, beatings, and sexual assault. Human Rights First released its last report on Egypt, How to Protect Civil Society and Promote Stability in Egypt, in August 2017.

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