CAIRO (Middle East Eye) – Amnesty International has warned the U.S. against waiving restrictions on military aid to Egypt, saying it puts Washington at risk of becoming complicit in Cairo’s human rights abuses.
Philippe Nassif, Amnesty’s advocacy director for the Middle East and North Africa, said in a statement on Monday that “unconditionally backing Egypt’s security forces contradicts President Biden and Secretary of State Blinken’s stated commitments to center human rights.”
“Waiving the congressionally-imposed restriction would provide a green light for President Sisi’s increasing crackdowns on Egyptians and further implicates the U.S. in abhorrent human rights abuses.”
According to Amnesty, at the beginning of August, a video posted by the Egyptian military showed soldiers shooting a man dead at close range in a tent whilst he was asleep, and another showed an unarmed man being shot dead from above as he ran through the desert.
Amnesty said the weapons used in the video were U.S.-made and that the arms are used to flout human rights, calling on Washington to forgo the waiver and further halt arms sales.
Egypt is currently the second-largest recipient of U.S. military aid, receiving $1.3bn each year from Washington. Since 1978, the U.S. has provided Cairo with $50bn in military assistance.
In 2014, Congress began imposing human rights conditions on $300m of the military aid, but former presidents Barack Obama and Donald Trump both issued national security waivers to bypass the restrictions.
Blinken has until the end of September to decide on whether to continue with the aid or not.
Since Egyptian President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi seized power in 2013, hundreds of journalists, activists, lawyers, and intellectuals have been arrested.
At least 60,000 political prisoners, detained as part of Sisi’s crackdown, are still languishing in jails, according to Human Rights Watch (HRW).
In 2020, the number of executions in Egypt tripled from the year before.
Prior to being elected, U.S. President Joe Biden pledged that there would be no more blank cheques for Sisi. However, since then, he approved $200m in arms sales around the same time news emerged that Egyptian-American activist Mohamed Soltan’s family members were arrested by Egyptian authorities.