This week, the United States Congress is voting on legislation that would to restore funding to Egypt's military government in Fiscal Year 2014, in direct violation of long-standing and crucial provisions that prohibit funding to countries where democratically elected governments are toppled by a military coup.
The event in Egypt last July, when the country's first freely elected president, Mohamed Morsi, was removed from office, certainly fit this designation. Thus, federal law requires that the U.S. suspend non-humanitarian aid to the country, as we did with Mauritania, Mali, Madagascar, and Pakistan following their respective coups. But language in the current omnibus bill seeks to exempt Egypt from this existing legislation, so long as Egypt's leaders certify that the government is advancing democratization.
While the bill contains some constructive conditions- for example, requiring the Secretary of State to certify that Egypt has held a constitutional referendum and elections, and is meeting its commitments to a democratic transition; specifying that the Secretary should consider the "development of democratic political processes and basic freedoms, including civil society and the media"; allowing for analyses of the Egyptian government's prosecution of officials of previous governments; and authorizing a multi-year review of assistance to Egypt - the bill's language does not go far enough to ensure that human rights will be protected.
U.S. lawmakers should take a firm and principled stand consistent with their rhetoric about the importance of human rights and democracy in Egypt. The Egyptian government continues to demonstrate disregard for basic principles of democracy and a lack of respect for internationally recognized human rights. Its leaders have acted with impunity and have been emboldened because there have been no consequences for their actions.
Following the July 2013 coup, crackdowns on voices perceived as critical of the military-backed interim government have grown in number and fervor. Egyptian citizens have been routinely detained on spurious grounds and peaceful protesters have been brutally assaulted by state authorities. More than 1,000 protestors are estimated to have been killed. The round-up of thousands of Muslim Brotherhood supporters; the continued use of military trials against civilians; implementation of a repressive anti-protest law that stifles peaceful assembly; the raiding of the office of a respected human rights organization; the detention of journalists on dubious terrorism charges all indicate that Egypt continues a slide towards authoritarianism and not its own declared "road map for a democratic transition."
Additionally, claims of voter intimidation, the arrest of activists who campaigned for a "no" vote during the recent constitutional referendum, as well as reports from a local election monitoring organization that two-thirds of its applications to observe the referendum were denied without justification by the High Elections Committee, further illustrate the overall lack of transparency and accountability that currently prevails in Egypt.
The U.S. government must stand on the side of human rights, the rule of law, and democratic progress, not impede or otherwise stunt such progress. If U.S. policy towards Egypt remains unchanged, we will be complicit in continued human rights violations, a totally unacceptable and untenable situation.
The Fiscal Year 2014 Omnibus Appropriations Bill must be passed by both the U.S. House and Senate and signed by President Barack Obama before becoming law, which is due to take place this week.