The Independent View: The crisis in Egypt is not in anyone’s interest

egypt fistsThe reaction of the US and EU governments to the crackdown on protestors in Ukraine has been swift. EU governments seem to be considering possible sanctions on Ukrainian officials, the US warned the Ukrainian Government of “consequences” on relations, and the Prime Minister of Ukraine was not allowed to speak at the World Economic Forum at Davos. This stern reaction comes as up to five protestors have been killed in clashes with the police in Kiev over the past week.

In contrast, the EU and US Governments have been very lenient, if not supportive, of the crackdown of the military regime in Egypt over protestors – a crackdown that has resulted in “the worst repression that Egypt has known in decades”, according to Human Rights Watch. According to human rights organisations, close to 3000 people have been killed since the July coup, including close to 100 people on 24 and 25 January. Thousands more have been injured, and reports estimate that more than 15,000 prisoners of conscience and political prisoners are in Egyptian jails. The EU and the US governments have been continuing business as usual with Egypt’s military regime – effectively endorsing the brutal assault on the nascent democratic process in Egypt.

The UK Government has to choose whether to continue contributing to the deteriorating situation in Egypt or to play a responsible role in helping Egypt return to the right path towards democracy, freedom, stability and respect for human rights and human lives. In addition to maintaining credibility and upholding the British values of freedom, democracy and the rule of law, it is in the core interest of the UK that Egypt does not continue on the dangerous path it has taken following the July coup. Commentators have been warning of scenarios similar to Algeria, Iran, Syria, Venezuela and even Rwanda and North Korea. Reaching one of these scenarios, or even a less severe scenario, in a country with the geographic and strategic importance of Egypt would not be in the interest of anyone.

The UK Government should make any further economic and military support to Egypt conditional on the return to real democracy and to the respect of human rights and human lives. We should apply economic and diplomatic pressure on the military government for the release of thousands of prisoners of conscience and political prisoners, starting with democratically elected President Mohamed Morsy. And we should support an international inquiry into the massacres of civilians. This approach towards the crisis in Egypt will not only enshrine credibility of a principled foreign policy, it will ultimately serve our long-term strategic and security interests.

* Tarek Abdel Hakim is a member of British Egyptians for Democracy.

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This entry was posted in The Independent View.

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