CAIRO: A U.S.-based human rights organization criticized the United States government for its claims that the Egyptian government was dedicated to having free and fair elections, and accuses it of ignoring reports of violence on polling days.
Human Rights Watch sent a letter to U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice on Dec. 2, in response to State Department spokesman Sean McCormack s remarks on violations and irregularities marring the three stages of the Egyptian parliamentary elections.
We are writing to express our astonishment at the statements yesterday by State Department spokesman Sean McCormack regarding state-inspired violence and irregularities in Egypt’s parliamentary elections. Mr. McCormack’s statements, including his assertion that the State Department has ‘not received, at this point, any indication that the Egyptian government isn’t interested in having peaceful, free and fair elections,’ are utterly disconnected from the reality of what is happening in Egypt today, wrote Tom Malinowski,Washington Advocacy director and Joe Stork, deputy director of Human Rights Watch’s Middle East and North Africa division.
While the first phase of the Egyptian parliamentary elections, which began Nov. 9, took place without massive violations, the second and third phases were heavily beset by violence, leading to the death of at least three people.
Reporters and civil society monitors witnessed irregularities during the final stages of the poll and made their findings public through different outlets.
In the letter, Human Rights Watch said it received reports about violence perpetrated by the supporters of the ruling National Democratic Party, as well as security agents with an intention to intimidate voters and presumed supporters of opposition candidates. It also mentioned the arrest of some 1,600 Muslim Brotherhood supporters since the voting process started.
“These reports are readily available to the administration as well. U.S.
Embassy staff who monitored some of the polling stations told us privately that they witnessed such irregularities themselves, and presumably their reports have reached the State Department, read the letter.”The accounts of election violence and other state efforts to ensure the ruling party’s continued monopoly on power, in other words, are available to anyone with even a passing interest in developments in Egypt. Presumably even Mr. McCormack has read, for instance, about men with machetes and knives chasing voters away from polling stations as police stood by.
In a Washington Post editorial, columnist Jackson Diehl described the American administration’s comment that the parliamentary elections were a step on the path toward democracy as being “ludicrous and indefensible. He denounced the government crackdown on the Muslim Brotherhood and suggested American support.
“. Though the Muslim Brotherhood is indeed fundamentalist, it renounced violence decades ago and has joined secular opposition groups in calling for a genuine parliamentary democracy in Egypt, he wrote. “The U.S. administration should make clear, starting now, that it won t tolerate a future undemocratic transfer of power from Mubarak to his son, or anyone else, he added.
Meanwhile, McCormack has lately made statements showing U.S. government concerns over the reports of violence. He said that the reports received presented “sources of real concern about the electoral process. We would urge the government of Egypt to provide an atmosphere during this election process in which the Egyptian people, all the Egyptian people,can express their will through the ballot box and not fear violence,not fear intimidation by any group, Mc- Cormack said.
During her last visit to Cairo, one of Rice’s comments about political reform in Egypt inferred that much still needs to be done in order to achieve democracy. “We are all concerned for the future of Egypt’s reforms when peaceful supporters of democracy, men and women, are not free from violence . Egypt’s elections, including the Parliamentary elections, must meet objective standards that define every free election.
“The administration’s failure to criticize the Mubarak government’s subsequent conduct in these elections and, indeed, the department spokesman’s effort to shield that government from criticism – badly serves those many Egyptians who have voted or attempted to vote in the face of this pattern of violence, intimidation and fraud. In addition, it badly undermines the administration’s credibility, including your own, when it speaks of its commitment to democratic freedoms in Egypt and the region, read the final statement of the letter.