The U.S. Senate is considering a new resolution that addresses human rights and civil liberties in Egypt. Senate Resolution 586 was introduced last week by Democratic Senator Russell Feingold and Republican Senator John McCain. It calls on the government of Hosni Mubarak to repeal the state of emergency and to take steps to ensure free and fair parliamentary and presidential elections.
It also calls on the White House to stress democratic reform in its dealings with Egypt and to support Egyptian human rights and reform groups.
Dr. Michele Dunne is a senior associate at the Washington-based Carnegie Endowment for International Peace and editor of the online journal, the Arab Reform Bulletin. She told us the resolution is symbolic and not binding.
Dunne: "The timing of the resolution is related to the upcoming elections in Egypt. Egypt is going to have important elections for the lower house of Parliament in November and a Presidential election next year.
I think there is a sense in the Congress that the United States has to pay more attention to this.
The Obama administration wanted to kind of reset the relationship with Egypt and improve relations with the government, which it did—and yet somehow, concerns about human rights and democracy kind of got lost, for awhile, at least.
Now, I think, there are a number of things that have been happening in Egypt. There are the upcoming elections. The government recently renewed this state of emergency under which the country has been living for more than thirty years. And there is also this human rights case recently, where a young man was beaten to death by the police. There’s a lot going on in Egypt, and I think we see now the Hill—and also the Administration starting to take more of an interest."
Hilleary: What good can a Senate resolution do? What kind of a signal does it send and where does it go from here?
Dunne: "Right. I mean, this resolution is really just an expression of interest on the part of the Senate in conditions in Egypt.
It shows that members of the Senate are aware of what’s going on in Egypt and consider that human rights and democracy have to be part of the U.S. relationship and dialogue with Egypt. And it urges the Egyptian government to take certain steps. And it also urges the administration—the president and the secretary of state—to sort of put these issues a little higher on the U.S. agenda with Egypt.
But there’s nothing binding about it. There are no punishments or threats or anything like that in the Resolution."
Hilleary: What has been the reception in Egypt?
Dunne: "It has appeared in the Egyptian press over the last couple of days. There have been some articles about it. So far, it’s pretty much sort of straight-forward reporting of this Senate Resolution, and I think we’ll see the reaction if the Resolution passes."