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The Biden administration ultimately did not provide $205 million of military aid to Egypt conditioned on human rights improvements this year, Reuters reported today, after Senator Patrick Leahy (D-VT) blocked $75 million that required Egypt make “clear and consistent progress” on releasing political prisoners and providing detainees with due process.

  • The administration already chose to withhold $130 million (out of a total $300 million conditioned on human rights) in September after concluding that Egypt had failed to achieve certain improvements conditioned by Congress, such as strengthening the rule of law and holding security forces accountable for human rights violations. Despite opposition from members of Congress and rights groups, however, the administration chose to move forward with the $75 million after claiming that Egypt made progress on political prisoners and due process.
  • Yet Leahy, who chairs the Senate Appropriations Committee, objected to the administration’s determination and blocked the funds. After talks between his office and the State Department failed to resolve the disagreement, the funding expired on September 30 and was thus returned to the U.S. Treasury. 
  • “We should take this law very seriously, because the situation facing political prisoners in Egypt is deplorable,” Leahy said. “We can’t give short shrift to the law because of other policy considerations. We all have a responsibility to uphold the law and to defend the due process rights of the accused, whether here or in Egypt.”
  • Assistant Secretary for Near Eastern Affairs Barbara Leaf, who traveled to Egypt last week, told Mada Masr that she had a “frank” discussion with Egyptian officials about the cuts and associated human rights concerns. Those concerns include certain “high-profile detainees” as well as the larger issue of pretrial detention. “Those who make up the bulk of pretrial detention are, by Egypt’s own account, people who have not committed any violent crimes,” she noted.


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    It is somewhat encouraging that the US congress is acting positively by withholding military funds due to lack of progress in enforcing human rights by the Egyptian government. What appears to be lost in the shuffle are the religious rights of the Egyptian Christians, the Copts. This ongoing travesty, sponsored by the government, should be given special attention by the powers-to-be here and around the world. Saba E. Demian, M.D

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