WASHINGTON — The United States has decided to release $195 million in military aid to Egypt after withholding the assistance last year over human rights concerns, the State Department announced Wednesday.
The department said the decision follows steps Egypt has taken in response to specific U.S. concerns, and it cited stronger U.S.-Egypt ties in security and counterterrorism while also acknowledging remaining areas of concern about human rights and governance.
Independent monitoring groups have documented continued human rights abuses in Egypt over the past year.
The New York-based Human Rights Watch describes the situation in Egypt as the “worst human rights crisis in the country in decades.” Egyptian police, the group said, systematically use “torture, arbitrary arrests and enforced disappearances to silence political dissent,” according to a recent assessment.
Amnesty International reported an escalation in Egypt’s crackdown on civil society and pointed to routine “grossly unfair” trials of government critics, peaceful protesters, journalists and human rights defenders.
The suspension of the U.S. military aid to Egypt in August 2017 came as a surprise as the two allies had forged increasingly close ties under President Donald Trump.
In announcing the changes, the secretary of state at that time, Rex Tillerson, said he wasn’t able to certify that Egypt had met the human rights criteria set by Congress in order to receive the American assistance.
Egypt responded angrily and called that decision a “misjudgment of the nature of the strategic relations that have bound the two countries for decades.”
Egypt long has been a key U.S. ally in the Middle East, receiving nearly $80 billion in military and economic assistance over the past 30 years.