This April, the National Lawyers Guild sent a delegation of U.S. lawyers, activists, and scholars to study Egypt’s ongoing revolution. In particular, the delegation investigated the role and responsibility of the U.S. government and American corporations in human rights abuses. It also documented how 30 years of U.S. military and economic intervention has violated Egypt’s popular sovereignty and locked the country in a web of debt.
The delegation met with a broad range of activists, including human rights advocates, youth leaders, Islamists, leftist intellectuals, and trade unionists. Delegates also met with many civil society organizations that provide vital legal and social services to poor and working class Egyptians who have been targeted by the state for their activism.
Through these meetings, the delegation gained important evidence of human rights abuses. The evidence implicates the military, the police, and state security forces in violent attacks on protesters, unlawful detention of activists, and the widespread use of torture, actions in which U.S. agencies have also been complicit.
The delegation’s work takes on added importance in light of a series of decrees by the Supreme Council of Armed Forces (SCAF) designed to further entrench the military’s power. These decrees, in conjunction with a recent Supreme Constitutional Court ruling dissolving the newly elected parliament, will have the effect of constraining the power of the winner of last weekend’s presidential elections, Mohamed Morsi. And while the election results are now official, it is clear that, unless action is taken, the real winner will continue to be the SCAF, which stands to maintain legislative, executive, and judicial control over all of Egypt.
Representing one of the most significant uprisings of our time, Egypt’s revolution still holds the potential to lead us into a new era of equality, democracy, and human rights, and it has already inspired democracy movements around the world, including the Occupy movement.
Egypt’s state attacks against protesters, striking workers, and the poor have in some ways escalated since the fall of the Mubarak regime. Over a period of less than 18 months, the current government has imprisoned 12,000, injured 6,000, and killed over 1,500.
The U.S. government has been complicit in these gross violations by providing direct military and financial aid to the current Egyptian regime, by maneuvering politically to help the regime cling to power in the days after January 25, 2011, and by delaying for almost 15 years the passage of the Small Arms Trade Treaty, which could prevent the regime from using American weapons against the Egyptian people.
The influx of those weapons belies the fact that American corporations are also complicit. During the people’s uprising, U.S. corporations continued to ship tear gas and other weaponry to the very government that was shooting at unarmed men, women, and children in the streets of Egypt.
Furthermore, the U.S. government and private corporations have supported the economic policies of the International Monetary Fund and World Bank, which have resulted in long-term job insecurity, increased poverty, and drastic concentration of wealth.
A Call for Full Disclosure of the U.S. Relationship with SCAF
To date, the people of Egypt have had no access to information about the extent of military-private ownership of their country’s industry and resources. That is because the military, with the support of the U.S., has made it illegal to access that information.
In the face of efforts by the military to maintain control of the Egyptian government and public sphere, Egyptian people must be protected in their efforts to take back their country. However, any efforts to deconstruct the economic and state structures built by and for the benefit of a small elite will fail unless the current government allows full transparency into its domestic operations.
Accordingly, the National Lawyers Guild supports the central call of Egyptian activists for transparency and freedom to access information relating to the complicity of the U.S. government and corporations in the activities of the repressive military regime. This should include disclosure of all information relating to the provision of U.S. economic and military aid, to military and intelligence training and cooperation, and to the sale of military equipment.
As American human rights activists and attorneys, we demand further that the U.S. government refrain from any action that compromises the right of the Egyptian people to self-determination, and that it refrain from obstructing the immediate transition to civilian government. Specifically, our demands are as follows:
- We support our Egyptian allies in calling for an immediate and unequivocal end to arbitrary detention, torture, disappearances, and the general criminalization of political dissent, as well as amnesty for all political prisoners.
- We support our Egyptian allies in calling for an end to all military tribunals and for the prosecution of all members of the former regime, army, and police who orchestrated and/or engaged in any acts of violence against civilians.
- We support the demands of Egypt’s people to uphold both domestic and international human rights law.
- We call on the U.S. government to immediately stop providing the Egyptian military with money and weapons, as both forms of aid are being used to violate domestic and international human rights law through the repression of legitimate forms of political dissent.
- We call for full disclosure and accounting of all financial and military aid given to the Egyptian government since the 1979 Camp David Accords.
- We call for full disclosure of all arms sales agreements between U.S. corporations and the Egyptian military.
- We call for a prohibition on exporting arms, including tear gas and other “small arms,” by any American corporation or private arms dealer to Egypt.
- We call for the full enforcement of the Leahy Law, which prohibits U.S. military assistance to foreign military units that violate human rights.
- We support the passage of the Arms Responsibility Act (HR 5749) which would prohibit the “transfer of defense articles and defense services to the governments of foreign countries that are engaging in gross violations of internationally-recognized human rights.”
- We recognize the devastating economic and social impact of neoliberal policies implemented at the behest of the U.S. government and international institutions and call for an end to U.S. economic intervention through the provision of aid with neoliberal conditions and other forms of coercion.
- We stand in solidarity with all Egyptians who continue to confront the forces of state repression and work for the establishment of a legal system that will protect dignity, freedom, and basic human rights. These demands are embodied and expressed in the broadly unified revolutionary chant for “bread, freedom, and social justice.”
The delegation is working on a full report of its findings due out later this summer. In the meantime, delegation members will be working with organizations and activists to organize around the demands listed above and pushing to hold the U.S. government accountable.
To see more photos from the delegation, visit the NLG International Committee website.