Human Rights Watch Urges Kerry to Delay Aid to Egypt

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The New York-based NGO, Human Rights Watch (HRW) said in a statement issued on Friday that before resuming certain military aid to Egypt, the US must acknowledge that the country has not made progress within developing basic freedoms or democratic transition.

The letter, delivered on 31 March, to US Secretary of State John Kerry added that since the ouster of Islamist president Mohamed Morsi last July, Egyptian interim authorities “have killed well over 1,000 protesters and locked up more than 16,000 people, many solely on the basis of their peaceful exercise of rights to free expression, association, and peaceful assembly.”

“An accurate appraisal of Egypt’s record since the military-backed overthrow of president Morsi would conclude that, far from developing basic freedoms, the Egyptian authorities are doing the opposite,” said Sarah Leah Whitson Middle East director at HRW.

The statement went on to stress that the interim-government has not only led a crackdown on Islamist protesters or members of the Muslim Brotherhood but also on prominent secular activists. Examples extend to founder of the April 6 Youth movement, Ahmed Maher who is currently serving a three-year sentence along with other activists for illegal demonstrations.

“Secretary Kerry should consider specific steps that Egypt should take to demonstrate a meaningful effort to develop basic freedoms … that includes releasing political dissidents, amending the restrictive public assembly law it passed in November 2013, and initiating criminal investigations into the unlawful use of lethal force and abuse of detainees by security officials,” added the statement.

On March 12, Kerry announced that in the coming days he will decide whether to resume US aid to Egypt after it was partially suspended in 2013 following the ouster of president Mohamed Morsi and a severe crackdown on his supporters.

“I am hopeful that in the days ahead I can make the appropriate decisions, and when I say days, I mean short term,” Kerry said.

A recently drafted US congressional spending bill which includes the restoration of more than $1.5 billion in military and economic aid to Egypt is currently awaiting a decision by the secretary according to Reuters.

Egypt is the second-largest recipient of US aid after Israel since signing the 1979 peace treaty.

Annual US aid to Egypt is allocated between $1.3 billion for military aid and roughly $250 million to economic aid.

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