By NOURHAN MAGDI
CAIRO: The U.S. should acknowledge Egypt has made “no progress on developing basic freedoms or on its democratic transition” said Human Rights Watch in a letter to U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry Friday.
“Any certification that Egypt is on the road to democratic transition will ring hollow while thousands of opposition activists remain locked up and the pervasive culture of impunity for serious abuses persists,” said Sarah Leah Whitson, Middle East director at Human Rights Watch, in a statement posted on the organization’s website.
The letter was sent to Kerry regarding the FY14 Omnibus Appropriations Bill, which requires the American government certify that Egypt has taken steps towards democratic development before it releases its military aid.
HRW noted what it described as “extreme political repression” in Egypt, and cited the March 24 mass death sentences by a Minya Court of 529 alleged members of the Muslim Brotherhood.
In the report, HRW said that since the ouster of Mohamed Morsi, Egypt has witnessed a deterioration of freedom of speech, and it condemned the “restrictive” protest law under which many protestors have been detained or imprisoned.
“The question is no longer whether Egypt is on the road to democratic transition, but how much of its brute repression the US will paper over,” Whitson said.
In January 2014, Washington decided to unfreeze its full package to Egypt, after an announced delay of the delivery of some equipment in October 2013, on the condition that the Egyptian government ensure democratic reform.
Annual military aid to Egypt has been a staple of the U.S. foreign policy for over 30 years; the Egyptian government receives $1.5 billion combined in-kind and economic assistance.
Being among the top 10 recipients of U.S. foreign assistance, Egypt was allocated $1.6 billion in fiscal year 2014, compared to $1.5 billion for fiscal year 2012, according to a Jan. 16, 2014 report by the Congressional Research Service, marking a 0.02 percent increase of Egypt’s nominal GDP in FY 2012/13.
Despite the FY 2014 aid increase, Egypt is slated to face a $50 million reduction in assistance in FY2015, according to a March 4 congressional budget report. Egypt is not alone in facing the budget cut; the total international aid budget requested by the Obama administration shrank from $46.81 billion in 2014 to $46.22 billion for fiscal year 2015.