White House criticizes Egypt, supports military aid

The Obama administration sent a formal report (PDF) to Congress criticizing the Egyptian government for its human rights abuses and lack of movement toward democracy but still supporting $1.3 billion to Egypt in mostly military aid. The report, signed by Secretary of State John Kerry and submitted quietly 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 rights violations. Current laws "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 its counterterrorism efforts against the Islamic State as a key reason Egypt remains of "vital importance" to the US from a security perspective. The report recommends continued support to Egypt despite the growing list of grievances.

Egyptian laws have been under much scrutiny in recent years. Human Rights Watch in March called on the Egyptian president to reject criminal procedure amendments that would threaten fair trials. Also in March a judge for Egypt's Administrative Court suspended 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 the parliament in June 2012 after finding that one-third of its members were elected illegally.

Egypt's anti-protest laws have come under international criticism. In January, Egypt's Court of Cassation upheld the convictions and three-year prison sentences of three activists for violating these laws.

From Jurist, June 8. Used with permission.