Joint letter: US should condemn Egypt for silencing human rights defenders

We, the undersigned groups, are appalled by the evidence that the Egyptian government and the intelligence apparatus persist in their efforts to silence human rights defenders even beyond Egypt’s borders. We call on the US government to condemn these actions.

According to Politico, during a June visit to Washington, DC, Egyptian General Intelligence Chief Abbas Kamel demanded that US officials jail US human rights defender Mohamed Soltan. Passing around a loosely worded Egyptian document without legal force, Kamel claimed that the United States had agreed that Soltan would serve the remainder of the life sentence he had unfairly received in Egypt in a US prison. Soltan was arbitrarily arrested in Egypt in 2013, subjected to torture and other ill-treatment, and sentenced after a grossly unfair trial; the Obama administration negotiated his release and return to the United States in 2015.

We urge the Biden administration to make it clear publicly that the Egyptian government’s request to jail Soltan will not be heeded.

Since returning to the United States, Soltan has been a major target of systemic defamation campaigns by the Egyptian government and pro-government media for his human rights work. The state campaign wrongly calls Soltan a terrorist, a member of the Muslim Brotherhood or an agent working on behalf of foreign actors. Defamatory allegations appear frequently in Egyptian government statements as well as in government sponsored media in Egypt and Saudi Arabia.

Soltan reported to US authorities that he had been monitored, harassed and threatened by Egyptian officials on US soil. Several members of his extended family in Egypt have been repeatedly arrested, harassed and detained in apparent retaliation for his activism. In June 2020, Egyptian security agents took Soltan’s father, Salah Soltan, from Wadi al-Natroun prison, where he had been imprisoned, to an undisclosed location. It remains forcibly disappeared at the time of writing over a year later.

The coordinated campaign of harassment and intimidation against Soltan is part of the broader crackdown on rights and freedoms by the Egyptian government in Egypt and aims to stigmatize human rights defenders, both domestically and abroad, and to undermine the effectiveness of their work. The document handed over by the Egyptian intelligence chief to US officials provides indisputable proof that these campaigns are being orchestrated from the highest levels of the Egyptian government.

While campaigning, then presidential candidate Joe Biden promised “no more blank checks“for President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi and made specific reference to the targeting of Soltan; President Biden and the State Department have, however, not commented on the specific measures the administration will take to hold the Egyptian government accountable for these violations.

Secretary of State Antony Blinken faces a deadline at the end of September on whether to pay Egypt $ 300 million in Foreign Military Funding (FMF) for fiscal year 2020, which is conditioned by Congress on progress towards improving human rights. Secretary Blinken may waive it, citing US national security interests. We urge the Secretary to take into consideration the widespread and continued crackdown on rights and freedoms in Egypt and the brazen efforts of the Egyptian authorities to intimidate and stigmatize human rights defenders and other peaceful critics of the government in Egypt and abroad, including understood in the United States, and send a clear human rights message by not using the waiver.

As the US Congress deliberates on military aid to Egypt for FY2022, we also call for the FMF in Egypt to be conditioned on President al-Sisi’s government to take concrete action to end the violations. systematic and widespread human rights, prevent the misuse of aid to commit violations. , and hold security officials accountable for their role in such violations. These considerations should in no case be dismissed.

Anything less than these strong messages will allow the Egyptian government to continue to act with impunity in a way that directly threatens the lives and well-being of millions of Egyptians.

Signatories:

  • Amnesty International USA
  • Cairo Institute for Human Rights Studies
  • Justice Committee
  • Democracy for the Arab World Now (DAWN)
  • Egyptian Front for Human Rights (FEDH)
  • Egyptian Human Rights Forum
  • EuroMed Rights
  • FIDH, within the framework of the Observatory for the Protection of Human Rights Defenders
  • Liberty house
  • The initiative of freedom
  • Human rights first
  • Human Rights Watch
  • International Service for Human Rights (ISHR)
  • James W. Foley Legacy Foundation
  • MENA Rights Group
  • OMCT (World Organization Against Torture), within the framework of the Observatory for the Protection of Human Rights Defenders
  • Foundations of the open society
  • PEN America
  • Middle East Democracy Project (POMED)
  • American Committee to End Political Repression in Egypt

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