Obama administration report criticizes Egypt, supports military aid

Obama administration report criticizes Egypt, supports military aid

[JURIST] The Obama administration [official website] sent a formal report [text, PDF] to Congress criticizing the Egyptian government for its human rights abuses and lack of movement toward democracy but still supporting sending $1.3 billion to Egypt in mostly military aid. The report, signed by Secretary of State John Kerry [official website] and submitted quietly [NYT report] on May 12, condemned Egypt’s due process restrictions and a “lack of fair trial safeguards,” pointing to mass trials, mass death sentences and extremely poor prison conditions. Government agents and police have largely not been held responsible for human rights violations. Current laws seem to “effectively ban … most forms of street protest … including peaceful dissent.” While Egypt has a general “democracy roadmap” that has been implemented in part, “the overall trajectory of rights and democracy has been negative.” Ultimately, however, the report cites Egypt’s counterterrorism efforts and public support against the Islamic State as key reasons why Egypt remains of “vital importance” to the US from a security perspective. Egypt’s economic prosperity also affects the vitality of other country’s in the region. Therefore, the report recommends continued economic support to Egypt despite the growing list of humanitarian grievances.

Egyptian laws have been under much scrutiny in recent years. In March Human Rights Watch [advocacy website] called on [JURIST report] the Egyptian president to reject criminal procedure amendments that would threaten fair trials. Also in March a judge for Egypt’s Administrative Court suspended [JURIST report] the country’s upcoming parliamentary elections indefinitely after another court declared the election law’s provision on voting districts unconstitutional. These elections would mark the first time the country has an acting legislature since the court dissolved [JURIST report] the parliament in June 2012 after finding that one-third of its members were elected illegally. Amnesty International (AI) [advocacy website] reported in January that the Egyptian government is failing to protect women’s rights and end violence against women. Egyptian authorities have passed laws that criminalize violent acts toward women, but AI reported that the failure to recognize the wide scale problem and implement the new laws has allowed the violence to continue. Egypt’s protest laws have also come under criticism recently, and in January, Egypt’s Court of Cassation [official website, in Arabic] upheld the convictions and three-year prison sentences of three activists for violating [JURIST report] these laws.