Egyptian Rights Groups Ask Hillary Clinton for Help

Human rights groups in Egypt ask Hilary Clinton to pressure their government.

ByABC News
April 9, 2010, 11:05 AM

CAIRO, April 9, 2010 — -- Several human rights organizations in Egypt have taken their case to the U.S., writing to Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and urging her to put pressure on the Egyptian government to allow greater democracy in the country.

With the parliamentary elections scheduled later this year, the rights groups say there needs to be more transparency to ensure free and fair elections.

In the letter the groups say that "a more democratic Egypt is in the interest of both the United States and Egypt, as such reforms would contribute to economic development and a safer region. With those goals in mind, we strongly encourage you to advance this agenda."

These demands were reinforced by Heba Morayef, Human Rights Watch researcher in Egypt. Morayef told ABC News that "'because of its significant financial and political support to the Mubarak government, the U.S. has a responsibility to speak out about abusive practices and to actively push for human rights reforms in Egypt."

Since Egypt is a key U.S. ally in the region and a huge benefactor of U.S. economic and financial aid, the stakes are high for the U.S. The group warned the U.S. of serious repercussions not only for Egypt, but also for stability in the region if Egypt does not carry out democratic reforms. Egypt, they warn, is moving towards growing authoritarianism.

Professor Mustapha Al-Sayyid, a political science professor at the American University in Cairo, told ABC News that "any expression of support for the pro-democracy groups in Egypt is very useful, particularly when it comes from such eminent personalities and experts like those who signed this letter to Secretary of State."

He also warned, however than any pressures on the Egyptian government would backfire because "the Egyptian government would hasten to denounce these pressures as interference in her internal affairs and would accuse democracy advocates as serving a foreign agenda."

State Department spokesman PJ Crowley said today, "We continue to support free and impartial elections in Egypt, and we continue to make that clear to the government of Egypt, and we continue to make that clear to the government of Egypt."

The human rights groups have compiled a list of recommendations including holding competitive elections by allowing all candidates to register and campaign freely with access to the media. Currently the constitution makes it difficult for independent candidates to run, only those belonging to a party that has existed for five years or more can run.

In addition, any presidential hopeful must secure 250 signatures from both legislative houses. It's a complicated system and makes it practically impossible for any independents to run.