Physicians for Human Rights (PHR) expressed concern today regarding a State Department announcement that the US will reinstate $1.3 billion in military assistance to Egypt. The funds had been withheld during the country’s attacks on civilians and several US-based groups that had long operated in Egypt. The Administration used a waiver, on national security grounds, to bypass a law that would have forbidden such assistance absent progress on a democratic transition.
The withholding of military assistance is an important tool through which the US can advocate for greater substantive human rights reforms, especially in those countries that consider themselves strategic partners of the United States.
By reinstating all military assistance to Egypt, the US ignores the Egyptian authorities’ ongoing human rights abuses, which are far-ranging and include grave violations of medical neutrality.
The US should withhold military assistance until the Egyptian authorities end these attacks and hold all perpetrators accountable.
The US should not actively support governments that use military equipment to crack down on peaceful protesters, and should honor congressional intent and US law by severely limiting the use of presidential waivers. These waivers are not a shortcut to circumvent the larger human rights policy goals of the United States.
During a recent investigation in Egypt, PHR documented attacks on the health profession including intimidating medical personnel and blocking those in need from accessing care. PHR also documented the effects of excessive use of force on the part of Egypt’s security forces against civilians, some of whom had serious health problems following the improper use of tear gas.