Amnesty International Disappointed by Reported U.S. State Department Waiver to Send Military Aid to Egypt

Press Release
March 23, 2012

Amnesty International Disappointed by Reported U.S. State Department Waiver to Send Military Aid to Egypt

Contact: Suzanne Trimel, 212-633-4150, strimel@aiusa.org

(Washington) -- Amnesty International said today it was disappointed by reports that Secretary of State Hillary Clinton plans to use a national security waiver to provide $1.3 billion of U.S. military aid to Egypt.

The organization called on the State and Defense departments to review disbursements of military aid on a case-by-case basis to make sure that weapons will not be used to commit human rights violations.

“Amnesty International opposes the funding, sale, or transfer of arms internationally where there is a substantial risk that the specific arms in question will be used to commit or facilitate serious human rights violations,” said Sanjeev Bery, advocacy director for the Middle East and North Africa.

Under the U.S. Foreign Military Financing program (FMF), the annual U.S. allocation of military aid to Egypt has been used by the Egyptian government for a wide range of military purchases. While U.S. government transparency around such purchases has been lacking, a 2006 GAO report demonstrates that these purchases have included aircraft, ships, vehicles, missiles, weapons, and ammunition.

The organization takes no position on the use of U.S. military aid to fund Egyptian arms purchases that are primarily for national defense purposes and do not demonstrate such a risk of being used to violate human rights.

Amnesty International opposes the funding, sale, or transfer of arms internationally where there is a substantial risk that the specific arms in question will be used to commit or facilitate serious human rights violations.

When it comes to human rights violations and military aid, different countries require different levels of concern. In Syria, for example, the government’s crimes against humanity demand a global arms embargo on the country. In Egypt, government security forces have repeatedly demonstrated a willingness to use small arms, light weapons, ammunition, armored personal vehicles, and internal security equipment (tear gas, rubber and plastic bullets, etc) in acts of excessive force that have resulted in the deaths of many Egyptians. Such acts may have been aided by the use of helicopter-based aerial surveillance during Egyptian protests in Tahrir Square and elsewhere.

As stated in Amnesty International USA’s March 14 letter ( http://bit.ly/EgyptLetter ) to Secretary Clinton: “Egyptian military and security forces have killed more than 100 protesters in the past five months. These protesters were, for the most part, peacefully demonstrating and chanting. In the particularly gruesome Maspero incident, Egyptian security forces used military vehicles to literally run over Coptic Christian protestors.”

“Amnesty International has repeatedly called for reform of the security forces and an end to the impunity that they enjoy in dealing with protests. Yet, one year later, no clear instructions seem to have been given to the security forces, including military personnel, to uphold the right to peaceful assembly and to police demonstrations in line with international standards."

Amnesty International is a Nobel Peace Prize-winning grassroots activist organization with more than 2.8 million supporters, activists and volunteers in more than 150 countries campaigning for human rights worldwide. The organization investigates and exposes abuses, educates and mobilizes the public, and works to protect people wherever justice, freedom, truth and dignity are denied.