Jun 6, 2013 4:21 PM EDT
Last month John Kerry quietly approved huge arms shipments to Egypt—despite Cairo’s ongoing violation of human rights. Josh Rogin reports.
While employees of American NGOs sat in Egyptian prisons, Secretary of State John Kerry quietly waived the law that would prevent the U.S. from sending the Egyptian military $1.3 billion worth of weapons this year.
Congress erupted in anger June 4, when Egyptian courts sentenced 43 NGO workers, including 16 Americans, to jail terms of up to five years for working in NGOs not registered with the government. Only one of those Americans, the National Democratic Institute’s Robert Becker, actually stayed in Egypt to await the verdict. He was given two years in prison. The other American organizations targeted included the International Republican Institute and Freedom House. All of those organizations had been operating in the open in Egypt for several years before the government raided their offices and forced them to flee the country in December 2011.
But what most in Congress didn’t know was that on May 10, Kerry had waived the restrictions lawmakers had put in place to make sure that U.S. military aid to Egypt wouldn’t continue unless Egypt made progress on its path to democracy, rule of law, and human rights. The State Department’s notification of Kerry’s move, which was never released to the public, was obtained by The Daily Beast.
The law that allows the State Department to give Egypt $1.3 billion each year in Foreign Military Financing (FMF) specifies that to get the money, the secretary of State must certify that Egypt is honoring its peace treaty with Israel as well as “supporting the transition to civilian government including holding free and fair elections; implementing policies to protect freedom of expression, association, and religion, and due process of law.”
“Foreign funding of NGOs in Egypt is something that drives the Egyptian military command crazy.”
Several members of Congress said this week that Egypt’s sentencing of American NGO workers, who were there to help Egypt build up its civil society and to promote democracy, flew in the face of that very law, meaning that Egypt should not get the money.
“The unjust convictions of Egyptian and American citizens by the Egyptian government, for nothing more than working to defend the fundamental rights of all Egyptians, is appalling and offensive to people of goodwill in Egypt and across the globe,” said Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-VT), who chairs the Senate Appropriations Committee’s state and foreign-ops subcommittee. “If Egypt continues on this repressive path, it will be increasingly difficult for the United States to support President Morsi’s government.”
“These politically motivated prosecutions of individuals doing nothing more than attempting to assist Egypt as it moves down the path toward democracy will only serve to undermine the progress that Egypt has made since 2011,” Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL) said in a statement. “The court’s order that several of the organizations … cease operations in Egypt also raises concerns about how the …read more