U.S. FY 2023 appropriations bill released, with more conditions on military aid to Egypt

The American FY 2023 appropriations bill has been released, with more conditions placed on the military aid for Egypt, as the Congress has again strengthened the aid conditions.

The U. S. Fiscal Year 2023 Appropriations bill set “$1.3 billion for security assistance to Egypt, with an increased percentage conditioned on governance and human rights reporting requirements, and stringent conditions on political prisoners and providing American citizens injured in Egypt with commensurate compensation.”

As the US administration appears to be embracing Egypt’s Sisi, most recently with significant high-profile meetings at the US-Africa Leaders Summit, Congress’s conditions become all the more important to force the US administration to continue addressing the human rights crisis in Egypt, according to Seth Binder, the director of advocacy at the project on middle east democracy.

During the last two years, the US administration withheld a portion of the conditioned military aid to Egypt, something it most certainly wouldn’t have done without Congress conditioning it.

This has resulted in clear responses from the Egyptian government demonstrating conditionality can work.

“This year, it included $1.3 billion in military aid, the same amount since 1987. Of the $1.3B, $320 million have rights conditions. Congress has steadily increased the amount conditioned in recent years, an initial sign of continued concerns over human rights abuses in Egypt,” states Seth Binder.

Of the $320 million, Congress provided a waiver for $225 million. This year that waiver is for US “national security interests” OR if the funds are “necessary” for counterterrorism, border security, or non-proliferation programs, adds Binder.

This last part matters because the last 2 years, the administration bypassed using the waiver. This allowed it to skip an important report to Congress justifying this decision and explaining why the conditions were not met, something they’d have to do now if they are unable to certify progress.

According to Binder, the remaining $95 million does not have a waiver and is conditioned on the Egyptian gov making clear and consistent progress in releasing political prisoners, providing detainees with due process of law, & preventing the intimidation and harassment of American citizens.

This condition is similar to one the admin determined Egypt met earlier this year, allowing for the release of $75 million in FY20 military aid, despite clear evidence to the contrary (such as more arrests than releases). Sen. Leahy blocked that release objecting to the decision.

The reference to intimidation & harassment is the same as the FY22 law and a strong signal that Congress understands this to still be a problem that needs continued attention.

Although the overall amount conditioned on human rights is the same as FY22 ($320M), the amount without a waiver increased by $10M, an indication of the importance Congress places on the non-waivable conditions and frustration with the admin’s policies to address these concerns.

Importantly, Congress has again conditioned the case of April Corley, a US citizen who was attacked by the Egyptian military while on vacation in Egypt, on “sustained and effective steps” to provide her with fair and commensurate compensation for injuries and losses.

The bill also includes two reporting requirements: (1)  Egypt’s compliance with end-user monitoring agreements for US military equipment in the Sinai and (2) incidents of harassment, threats, and arbitrary detention against US citizens, and their family members in Egypt and the US.

The second report is the 2nd time Congress has required this. It begins an effort to show that the Egyptian government is in violation of Section 6 of the Arms Export Control Act, which prohibits security assistance to any country engaged in a consistent pattern of this behavior.