Human rights groups condemn Biden for delivering hundreds of millions of dollars in security aid to Egypt, saying he is softer on President Sissi than Trump
- Activists condemned Biden’s government on Tuesday for providing military aid to Egypt’s President Sissi
- They said officials had forgotten their commitment to “put human rights at the heart of their foreign policy.”
- Sissi’s government is accused of curtailing opponents and restricting Egyptians’ freedom of expression
- Under mounting pressure, the government said it would withhold $130 million over rights concerns
- But that wasn’t enough for campaigners who said former President Trump went ahead in 2017 by withholding $195 million in aid
Human rights groups on Tuesday denounced President Biden for his decision to provide Egypt hundreds of millions of dollars in security assistance, accusing him of circumventing legislation to protect fundamental freedoms.
A day earlier, under mounting pressure, US officials said they would withhold a portion of $300 million earmarked for counter-terrorism, border security and non-proliferation efforts.
But 19 human rights groups said this still meant the Biden administration had taken a weaker stance than the Trump administration in holding Egyptian President Abdel Fatah al-Sissi to account.
They accused Biden of forgetting his campaign promises.
“This government has repeatedly vowed to put human rights at the center of its foreign policy and, in particular, its relationship with Egypt,” said the groups, including Human Rights Watch and Amnesty International USA.
“However, this decision is a betrayal of these commitments.”
Human rights groups accused President Biden on Tuesday of hypocrisy over his administration’s decision to withhold only $130 million of $300 million in security aid from President Abdel Fatah al-Sissi’s government. checks’ for Egyptian leader over human rights concerns
Every year, the US gives Egypt $1.3 billion in security assistance, of which about $300 million depends on human rights. Last week, a Human Rights Watch report accused Egyptian security forces of secret detentions and “
Since taking power in the wake of a coup in 2013, Sissi has been accused of human rights violations and suppressing dissent.
As a result, Congress imposed human rights conditions on military aid to Egypt in 2014.
The terms apply to $300 million of the $1.3 billion given to Egypt each year.
But both President Obama and Trump used national security waivers to get around the restrictions.
Human rights groups have long wanted tougher restrictions, while some Republican lawmakers see Sissi as a vital ally against militant Islamist movements in the region.
Last week, Human Rights Watch released a report detailing allegations of secret detentions and “probable extrajudicial killings” by Egyptian security forces.
On Monday, officials said they would withhold $130 million in aid this year, releasing the money only if Sissi’s government ended the persecution of civil society organizations and dropped charges against 16 people.
Biden had been critical of support for Cairo in the past, highlighting how Trump once called Sissi his favorite dictator.
He promised “no more blank checks for Trump’s favorite dictator” during last year’s presidential campaign.
In their statement, human rights groups point out that the former president withheld $195 million in aid in 2017 after Sissi’s government passed a law to crack down on NGOs.
Biden last year celebrated the release of an Egyptian-American medical student (after more than a year in prison after being arrested at a protest) by promising “no more blank checks for Trump’s ‘favorite dictator'”
The Biden administration has often sought to differentiate itself from the Trump administration by claiming to take a stronger stance on human rights and promising to crack down on Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sissi, who was Biden has been referred to as “Trump’s favorite dictator.”
“In that context, it is particularly baffling to see this decision, a markedly weaker position than that of the Trump administration in the same situation in August 2017.”
Other groups that signed the statement included the Committee to Protect Journalists, The Freedom Initiative, Egyptian Human Rights Forum.
“If the government is genuinely committed to human rights, this decision would have been simple: withhold the $300 million in military aid, as determined by Congress to urge al-Sissi to change course,” they concluded.
“Instead, the government chose to ignore its commitment to human rights by circumventing the legal terms through a vague, previously unused provision in the law.
“Given the appalling scale of the abuses committed since 2013 by the Egyptian government, one of the largest recipients of US military aid, it is imperative that the terms of Congress be [Foreign Military Financing] be enforced to end the impunity surrounding these systematic abuses.”