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  15 Sep 2021, 09:37

US conditions only small part of aid to Egypt on human rights

  WASHINGTON, Sept 15, 2021 (BSS/AFP) - Washington will make only a small
portion of military aid to Egypt conditional on human rights, the State
Department told AFP Tuesday, an amount well below the level required by US
law.

  The law stipulates that $300 million a year in security assistance be
disbursed only if Cairo meets a number of human rights criteria.

  But US governments in the past have always invoked national security to
waive this rule.

  This year, because "we are continuing to discuss our serious concerns about
human rights in Egypt," US Secretary of State Antony Blinken "will not
certify that the Government of Egypt is taking sustained and effective steps
related to the legislative human rights-related conditions," a US State
Department spokesperson told AFP.

  However, Blinken will also depart from the law by "making available" $300
million "for border security, non-proliferation, and counterterrorism
programs," the spokesperson continued.

  Of the total, $170 million will be released without conditions, and $130
million only "if the Government of Egypt affirmatively addresses specific
human-rights related conditions," the spokesperson said.

  "US officials have conveyed to Egypt's leaders specific steps we have urged
them to take," the spokesperson added without detailing them.

  For all that, Egypt "is a valuable US partner, particularly on regional
security, counterterrorism, and trade," the spokesperson said.

  - 'Complete betrayal' -

  Several leading rights groups slammed Washington's decision in a joint
statement as "a complete betrayal" of its repeated commitments to put "human
rights at the center of its foreign policy and specifically its relationship
with Egypt."

  The move by President Joe Biden's administration "sidesteps the intent of
Congress, which passed legislation clearly stating that $300 million in US
military aid should be withheld until Egypt has taken steps to 'strengthen
the rule of law,' 'implement reforms that protect' basic freedoms, and 'hold
Egyptian security forces accountable,'" the organizations, including Amnesty
International and Human Rights Watch, wrote in the statement.

  "By paving the way to provide the full $300 million, the administration
gives license to the Egyptian government to continue perpetrating egregious
human rights violations without fear of repercussions," the NGOs said.

  They accused the Biden administration, "which has frequently sought to
distinguish itself" from former President Donald Trump by promising more to
be stronger on human rights, of in fact taking a "notably weaker" position.

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