US Congress bill pushing for democracy in Egypt

Abdel-Rahman Hussein
3 Min Read

CAIRO: A bill referred to the Committee on Foreign Relations in the US Congress last week and co-sponsored by former presidential candidate John McCain, is calling for supporting democracy and civil liberties in Egypt.

The proposed bill, Senate Resolution 586, put forward by Democrat Senator Russell Feingold, and entitled “A resolution supporting democracy, human rights, and civil liberties in Egypt”, is to be discussed in the foreign relations committee, but there is no guarantee that it will move to the house floor.

The text of the bill noted that “authorities in Egypt continue to harass, intimidate, arbitrarily detain, and engage in violence against peaceful demonstrators, journalists, human rights activists, and bloggers.”

It added that “despite President Hosni Mubarak’s pledge in 2005 that Egypt’s controversial emergency law would only be used to fight terrorism and that he planned to abolish the state of emergency and adopt new antiterrorism legislation as an alternative, in May 2010, the Government of Egypt again extended the emergency law, which has been in place continuously since 1981, for another two years, giving police broad powers of arrest and allowing indefinite detention without charge.”

Bills of this kind are often proposed to the foreign relations committee, but never make it out of there. Last year a similar bill calling for more democratization in Egypt did not make it out of the foreign relations committee to be voted on in Congress.

The latest resolution called on US President Barack Obama and his Secretary of State Hillary Clinton “to make respect for basic human rights and democratic freedoms a priority in the ongoing relationship and dialogue between the Governments of the United States and Egypt.”

Additionally, it requested of them to “broaden the engagement of the United States Government with the people of Egypt and support efforts in the country to help promote human rights and democratic reform, including by providing appropriate funding to international and domestic election observers, as well as to civil society organizations for democracy and governance activities.”

The proposed bill has not been favorably received in Egypt and was the subject of discussion on the “90 Minutes” a talk show on Mehwar satellite channel Tuesday night.

Editor of the semi-official Al-Gomhoriya newspaper Mohamed Ali Ibrahim said during the show that the US shouldn’t be asking for the emergency law to be repealed when they have their own version of the law but under a different moniker, namely its anti-terrorism law.

An official from the US Embassy in Cairo, Haynes Mahony, called in on the show and said the bill wasn’t meant to be an intervention in Egyptian affairs but was part of US policy to promote democracy, human rights and civil liberties across the globe.

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