The Biden administration’s decision to provide the Government of Egypt with the $235 million in Fiscal Year (FY) 2022 Foreign Military Financing (FMF) that Congress conditioned on human rights benchmarks sends the wrong message at the wrong time. By withholding less than it did in each of the last two years, the administration is effectively telling President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi’s government that it saw improvement in the human rights situation over the past year, when in fact things have degenerated significantly. This undermines any efforts by the administration to address human rights concerns in Egypt and will only further embolden al-Sisi, risking further destabilizing the country.
In the past few weeks alone, the Egyptian government has intensified its crackdown on the political opposition, including the arrest of Hisham Kassem and sentencing of Mohamed Adel; carried out egregious examples of transnational repression, such as the arrest of the father of Belgium-based journalist Ahmed Gamal Ziada; and continued to severely restrict the freedoms of expression, assembly, and association, among others, by attacking the independent, fact-checking media platform Matsadaash. Just today, Citizen Lab confirmed that presidential candidate Ahmed al-Tantawi joins the growing list of Egyptians targeted by Predator spyware. And Egypt’s prisons remain as full as ever: Since the beginning of the year, the government has released approximately six hundred political prisoners, but over that time authorities have arrested more than two thousand others.
Moreover this decision harms U.S. interests by undoing the credibility built over the past two years. At a time when the administration has sought to convince the world that the United States is committed to a rules-based order that separates its vision from those of rival powers, ignoring when partners violate the rules reflects a double standard and signals a lack of commitment to the rules the United States claims to defend and value.
While we welcome the administration’s decision to withhold the $85 million in FMF conditioned on “releasing political prisoners, providing detainees with due process of law, and preventing the intimidation and harassment of American citizens,” by providing the Egyptian government with more than $1.2 billion in military aid, the Biden administration contradicts its repeated commitments to put human rights at the center of its foreign policy. It also reaffirms the need for Congress to do more to hold al-Sisi’s government accountable for its rampant human rights abuses by further restricting military aid to Egypt and increasing its calls for significant and systemic human rights reforms.
Cairo Institute for Human Rights Studies (CIHRS)
Center for International Policy
Committee for Justice
Egyptian Front for Human Rights
Egyptian Human Rights Forum (EHRF)
EgyptWide for Human Rights
The Freedom Initiative
HuMENA for Human Rights and Civic Engagement
International Service for Human Rights (ISHR)
Project on Middle East Democracy (POMED)
The Tahrir Institute for Middle East Policy