Human rights groups condemn Biden for supplying hundreds of millions of dollars in security aid to Egypt, saying he is SOFTER on President Sissi than Trump
- Activists condemned Biden administration on Tuesday for supplying military aid to President Sissi of Egypt
- They said officials had forgotten their commitment to ‘put human rights at the center of its foreign policy’
- Sissi’s government is accused of clamping down on opponents and restricting Egyptians’ freedom of expression
- Under growing pressure, the administration said it would withhold $130 million because of rights concerns
- But that was not enough for campaigners who said former President Trump went further in 2017 by withholding $195 million in aid
Human rights groups condemned President Biden on Tuesday over his decision to supply Egypt with hundreds of millions of dollars in security aid, accusing him of sidestepping legislation to protect basic freedoms.
A day earlier, under growing pressure, U.S. officials said they would withhold a portion of $300 million destined for counterterrorism, border security and nonproliferation efforts.
But 19 human rights groups said that 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 administration has repeatedly vowed to put human rights at the center of its foreign policy and specifically its relationship with Egypt,’ said the groups, including Human Rights Watch and Amnesty International USA.
‘This decision, however, is a betrayal of these commitments.’
Human rights groups accused President Biden of hypocrisy on Tuesday for his administration’s decision to withhold only $130 million of $300 million in security aid to the government of President Abdel Fatah al-Sissi, accusing him of forgetting his promise that there would be ‘no more black checks’ for the Egyptian leader because of human rights concerns
Each year, the U.S. gives Egypt $1.3 billion in security aid – with some $300 million subject to human rights conditions. Last week, a Human Rights Watch report accusing Egyptian security forces of secret detentions and ‘
Since coming to power in the wake of a 2013 coup, Sissi has been accused of human rights abuses and the suppression of dissent.
As a result, Congress imposed human rights conditions on military aid to Egypt in 2014.
The conditions apply to $300 million of the $1.3 billion given to Egypt every year.
But both President Obama and Trump used national security waivers to bypass 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 published a report describing allegations of secret detentions and ‘probable extrajudicial killings’ by Egyptian security forces.
On Monday, officials said they would withhold $130 million in assistance this year, only releasing the funds only if Sissi’s government ended the prosecution of civil society organisations and drops charges against 16 individuals.
Biden had in the past been critical of support to Cairo and highlighted how Trump once called Sissi his favorite dictator.
He promised ‘no more blank checks for Trump’s favourite dictator’ during last year’s presidential election campaign.
In their statement, the human rights groups point out that the former president withheld $195 million in aid in 2017 after Sissi’s government introduced a law cracking down on NGOs.
Biden celebrated the release of an Egyptian-American medical student (after spending more than a year in jail after being arrested at a protest) last year by promising ‘no more blank checks for Trump’s “favorite dictator”‘
‘The Biden administration has frequently sought to distinguish itself from the Trump administration by claiming to take a stronger stance on human rights and promising to be tough on Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sissi, whom Biden referred to as “Trump’s favorite dictator.”
‘With that context, it is especially dismaying to see this decision, a notably weaker position than that taken by the Trump administration in the same situation in August 2017.’
Other groups signing the statement included the Committee to Protect Journalists, The Freedom Initiative, Egyptian Human Rights Forum.
‘If the administration’s dedication to human rights were sincere, this decision would have been simple: withhold the $300 million in military aid as conditioned by Congress to incentivize al-Sissi to change course,’ they concluded.
‘Instead, the administration chose to ignore its commitment to human rights by evading the legislative conditions through a vague, previously unused provision in the law.
‘Given the appalling scale of abuses committed since 2013 by the Egyptian government, one of the largest recipients of U.S. military aid, it is imperative that congressional conditions on [Foreign Military Financing] be enforced to end the impunity around these systematic abuses.’