HRW: “If Trump Won’t Act on Egypt’s Repression, the Congress Needs to Keep up the Pressure”

Human Rights Watch urged the Congress to keep up the pressure even if Trump won’t act on Egypt’s repression.  The rights group wrote,”The arrest in Egypt of American-Egyptian dual citizen Amir Nagy, who founded an academy for children’s development in Nasr City, should be a wake-up call to the Trump administration on the questionable effectiveness of its quiet, behind-the-scenes advocacy on human rights in Egypt.”

Authorities held Nagy incommunicado for two days before charging him with belonging to a banned political group,  said aya Hegazy, the founder of Belady Foundation, created to help Egypt’s street children, and a former political prisoner herself.

Even good news in Egypt, such as Abdel Fattah al-Sisi’s May pardon of over 300 prisoners – including Ahmed Etiwy, a US citizen rounded up in a 2013 protest – is coupled with repression. That same month, al-Sisi’s security agencies arrested activists Wael Abbas, Hazem Abd al-Azim, and Amal Fathy on charges that seem to be solely based on their social media posts and peaceful activism.

US President Donald Trump has made clear he is not interested in publicly discussing human rights with al-Sisi, favoring instead a quiet diplomatic approach. Publicly, Trump has called al-Sisi a “fantastic guy” and read-outs from their early phone calls and al-Sisi’s visit to Washington in April 2017 focused on rebuilding the partnership and security and trade concerns.

Yet behind the scenes, Trump urged al-Sisi to release Egyptian-American Aya Hegazy from prison and cautioned al-Sisi against signing a draconian law that would criminalize the work of many non-governmental organizations. (NGOs).

In fact, the Egyptian government freed Aya Hegazy, however, the NGO bill was signed into law, in breach of al-Sisi’s assurances to Trump.

“For now, the bill remains frozen. That coincides with a US State Department decision, citing the NGO law, to withhold some of Egypt’s aid pending progress on democracy and human rights,” according to HRW.

However, since the aid reduction, the Trump administration has issued little public response to Egypt’s worsening situation. HRW said,”This crackdown, aimed at silencing Egypt’s critical voices, begs a more proactive approach from the US, especially when Egyptian Americans are caught up in the process.”

“Private diplomacy can work, but smart politicians know when to change their strategy,” said HRW.

It continued,” It’s time for the Trump administration to reassess its Egypt policy. If they won’t take the initiative, it’s up to Congress to step up to the plate. A prime time to do that is during this morning’s debate over the Fiscal Year 2019 Appropriations Bill, when the Senate Appropriations Committee decides which programs around the world – and in Egypt – to fund.”

Since 2013, international human rights groups have criticised Abdel Fattah al-Sisi’s government for cracking down on secular and left-wing activists, as well as Islamists close to the banned Muslim Brotherhood.