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Damning US report slams rights violations in Sisi's Egypt

The US report says human rights in Egypt continue to deteriorate. [Getty]

Date of publication: 20 September, 2017

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New report by the Trump administration has issued a damning verdict on human rights in Egypt under President Sisi, condemning detentions, disappearances and reports of extrajudicial executions in the country.

A new report by the Trump administration has issued a damning verdict on human rights in Abdel-Fattah al-Sisi's Egypt, condemning detentions, disappearances and reports of extrajudicial executions in the country.

The report, detailed in a State Department memorandum to Congress seen by The Associated Press, is likely to draw consternation from President Sisi, who will meet with US President Trump on Wednesday on the side-lines of the UN General Assembly gathering.

The memo was legally required for the Trump administration to continue giving certain US aid to Cairo, despite its failure to meet multiple conditions on good governance.

"The overall human rights climate in Egypt continues to deteriorate," the memo says.

"There is a continuing problem with arbitrary arrests, detentions, disappearances. There are reports of extrajudicial killings. There are numerous allegations of torture and deaths in detention."

Egypt is the second largest recipient of US military aid after Israel, receiving about $1.3 billion annually

The report said Egypt is failing to meet five criteria laid out in the annual spending bill covering foreign aid, citing the arrest of opposition party members, the blocking of more than 100 online media outlets, freezing the assets of activists and failing to provide due process for political detainees.

"Arrests often occur without warrants or judicial orders," the report said. "Conditions in prisons and detention centres are harsh due to overcrowding, physical abuse, inadequate medical care, and poor ventilation."

The memo also criticises Cairo for mass "impunity" granted to police and security forces despite reports of "arbitrary killings," while condemning the controversial NGO law signed in May.

Cutting aid?

Last month, the Trump administration cut nearly $100 million in military and economic aid to Egypt, a key counterterrorism partner.

It said, however, that Egypt would still receive $200 million more in military financing on a delayed basis if it makes improvements, including easing tight restrictions on civil society groups.

Despite not meeting conditions to receive the aid, the US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson could waive those conditions if he determines that it's in US national security interests to provide the funds.

But the law requires a detailed "memorandum of justification" outlining how Egypt is falling short. Tillerson sent the memo to Congress on 22 August, the same day the funding decision was announced.

The State Department did not make the memo public, despite requests from the media and human rights groups, with its findings considered embarrassing to Sisi.

Under the terms of aid transfers, the US must be able to monitor how money and weapons transferred to foreign governments are used

The Egyptian president addressed the UN General Assembly on Tuesday but did not comment on global criticisms of his country's human rights record.

The US report also expressed concern over the lack of access Egypt has granted US officials in northern Sinai, where Egypt is grappling with an insurgency by Islamic militants.

Egypt has barred journalists and others from travelling there, leaving the media to depend entirely on statements by police of military spokespeople.

Under the terms of aid transfers, the US must be able to monitor how money and weapons transferred to foreign governments are used.

Egypt is the second largest recipient of US military aid after Israel, receiving about $1.3 billion annually.

Trump has generally avoided direct criticism of al-Sisi over his country's human rights record, making no mention of it in a public statement issued after their first meeting in the Oval Office in April.

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