Don’t reward Egypt’s torture

From an editorial Friday in the Washington Post:

Disappearances, torture and extrajudicial killings have become shockingly common under the Egyptian regime of Abdel Fatah al-Sissi. According to the El Nadeem Center, a Cairo-based human rights group, there were 464 documented cases of abductions by security forces in 2015, at least 676 cases of torture, and almost 500 deaths of detainees. The abuses have largely been ignored by Egypt’s Western allies. But on Jan. 25, a 28-year-old Italian PhD. student researching trade unions, Giulio Regeni, disappeared in Cairo. His torture-scarred body was discovered dumped in a roadside ditch nine days later.

The case made headlines across Europe and prompted some long-overdue scrutiny of the Sissi regime’s appalling human rights record. On March 10, the European Parliament overwhelmingly called on governments to cease arms sales and security assistance to Egypt, saying the student’s murder “follows a long list of enforced disappearances,” as well as mass arrests and sweeping repression of free assembly and speech. “Respect for human rights,” said Cristian Dan Preda, vice chair of the Parliament’s human rights subcommittee, “should be the basis of our relations with Egypt.”

That principle also ought to govern U.S. ties with the Sissi regime, not least because its brutal repression is spawning extremism and pushing stability in Egypt out of reach. Instead, the Obama administration is moving in the opposite direction. In requesting another $1.3 billion in military aid for Cairo in next year’s budget, it has asked Congress to eliminate conditioning that has tied 15 percent of the aid to the government’s human rights record.

For the Obama administration to hand Cairo a blank check now would be foolhardy. Congress should prevent it.