HRC led a coalition of ten human rights organizations calling on the Trump administration not to release military funding to Egypt due to their abysmal human rights record, particularly with regards to LGBTQ people. In a letter to Secretary of State Rex Tillerson sent this week, the groups call on him to “continue withholding part of Egypt’s military financing in view of that government’s failure to meet clear and specific benchmarks regarding democracy and human rights.”
Last summer, the U.S. government announced that it was withholding $195 million in military aid to Egypt due to strategic and human rights concerns. While the U.S. normally provides about $1.3 billion to Egypt’s military each year, U.S. law requires the administration to withhold a portion of that funding if Egypt is not making sufficient progress on human rights and democracy. While there have often been national security waivers allowing the funding to proceed despite Egypt’s human rights abuses, Tillerson decided last summer not to issue the waiver and to instead withhold the funding.
The organizations — including HRC, the Council for Global Equality, the Center for Health and Gender Equity, The Fellowship Global, GLAAD, Global Justice Institute - Metropolitan Community Churches, Human Rights First, Immigration Equality, the Los Angeles LGBT Center, the National Center for Transgender Equality and Out & Equal Workplace Advocates — are calling on Tillerson to continue withholding the funding because of Egypt’s failure to protect human rights, particular of LGBTQ people.
The organizations state, “over the last several years, President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi has initiated a crackdown on civil society and human rights that has surpassed anything seen in that country in recent memory.” Thousands of protesters have been detained, tortured or executed, while human rights defenders have been targeted and prosecuted for receiving foreign funding.
LGBTQ people have been especially targeted since last September, when authorities in Cairo arrested seven people who had been photographed at a concert raising a rainbow flag. Since then, dozens more were arrested and held without charge and members of Egypt’s parliament have proposed legislation that would explicitly criminalize same-sex relations and even showing support for the community in any way. HRC and Human Rights First held a protest outside an Egyptian embassy building in Washington last November to protest these actions.
The organizations signing this week’s letter argue that in order to release the funding, Tillerson should at the very least ensure that Egypt has:
- halted implementation of their new non-government organization (NGO) law, that seeks to target and terrorize independent civil society;
- dropped prosecutions against Egyptian NGOs;
- lifted travel bans and asset freezes against human rights activists, and released all detainees held for the peaceful expression of their views;
- released LGBTQ people who have been detained or sentenced during the crackdown that began in September 2017 and dismissed charges or sentences against them;
- ended arrests and prosecutions of LGBT Egyptians under the debauchery laws; and
- rejected legislation that would further criminalize LGBT people and their allies.