In a bid to address human rights concerns, a group of Democratic US House of Representatives members has urged President Joe Biden’s administration to halt some military aid to Egypt.
This call follows similar demands made by other lawmakers ahead of the 30th September deadline, with the administration expected to announce its decision before then.
Under US law, a portion of the $1.3 billion in foreign military assistance to Egypt is subject to annual human rights certification, amounting to around $300 million. Last year, the Biden administration withheld $130 million of that total due to Cairo’s track record on human rights.
The letter, led by Representative Gregory Meeks, the top Democrat on the House Foreign Affairs Committee, highlighted the urgent need to address the situation. It emphasized the ongoing detention of numerous Egyptians, including journalists, peaceful civil society activists, human rights defenders, and political figures, who face politically motivated charges and are subjected to abuse, mistreatment, and medical neglect.
The move to halt military aid to Egypt stems from the growing concerns regarding the country’s human rights violations.
Over the years, Egypt has faced significant criticism for its approach to human rights, particularly in the areas of freedom of expression, assembly, and the press. Critics argue that the Egyptian government, under the leadership of President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi, has clamped down on dissent and stifled opposition voices.
The decision to withhold military aid to Egypt presents a challenge for the Biden administration, as it seeks a delicate balance between promoting human rights and maintaining strong bilateral relations with key allies. On one hand, it is essential to address human rights concerns and hold countries accountable. On the other hand, the US relies on Egypt as a crucial partner in the region, particularly in matters of regional stability, counterterrorism efforts, and the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
This development aligns with the Biden administration’s commitment to prioritizing human rights. It marks a departure from the approach of the previous administration, which maintained close ties with Egypt despite concerns over its human rights record. The decision also reflects a broader shift in US foreign policy, as the Biden administration seeks to emphasize democratic values and human rights promotion.
The State Department’s decision to decline comment on the letter is not surprising, as it is customary for congressional correspondence. This lack of response leaves many wondering what the department’s stance is on the matter. Additionally, the Egyptian embassy in Washington did not address the request for comment, further adding to the lack of clarity surrounding the issue.
The relationship between the United States and Egypt is a complex one. Washington views Cairo as an important strategic partner and ally in a tumultuous region. As such, the US has repeatedly stressed its commitment to supporting Egypt’s legitimate defense needs. However, recent events have brought the allocation of funds into question.
A group of 11 senators, led by Democratic Senator Chris Murphy, who also serves as the Chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee’s Middle East subcommittee, has expressed their concerns through a letter to the administration. These senators are urging the government to withhold the $300 million in funds. Their reasoning for this request is unclear, as the specifics of the letter have not been made public.
In addition to the senators’ concerns, various human rights groups have also called for the funds to be withheld. These groups argue that Egypt’s human rights record should be taken into consideration before providing any financial assistance. The extent to which these pleas will influence the decision-making process remains unknown.
It is important to note that the State Department’s decision to withhold comment does not necessarily indicate agreement or disagreement with the concerns raised in the letter. It is possible that further discussions are taking place internally to carefully consider the implications of the senators’ request and the human rights groups’ concerns.