The Arabist

The Arabist

By Issandr El Amrani and friends.

"Frank discussions"

These State Dept. press briefings on Egypt regularly have some telling exchanges (I bet the journalist here is AP's Matt Lee.) On the sentencing to death of former President Morsi:

QUESTION: I have a question on Egypt --


QUESTION: -- and whether or not you have any reaction to the sentence handed down to Mohamed Morsy and whether the U.S. has shared any of those thoughts or concerns with Egyptian officials.

MR RATHKE: Yes. We are deeply concerned by yet another mass death sentence handed down by an Egyptian court to more than 100 defendants, including former President Morsy. We have consistently spoken out against the practice of mass trials and sentences which are conducted in a manner that’s inconsistent with Egypt’s international obligations and which are frequently used against members of the opposition and nonviolent activists. This practice, which in this instance was directed against, among others, a former elected president, is unjust and undermines confidence in the rule of law.

QUESTION: And did you – I mean, has this message been sent to Egyptian authorities somehow?

MR RATHKE: Well, we continue to have frank discussions with the Government of Egypt about our human rights concerns, including this. I don’t have a detailed readout to share, but this is certainly a topic that we continue to have conversations about.

Yes, go ahead.

QUESTION: I think similar statement was told on Sunday morning by an unnamed State Department official, and shortly after the readout Egyptian court hanged six people. One of them was high school student, which is described by the Amnesty International as grossly unfair. So it’s clear that U.S. – or Egyptian authorities does not really care about U.S. concern or other countries’ condemnation, and I’m wondering if U.S. is planning any other measures regarding the human right abuses in Egypt.

MR RATHKE: Mm-hmm. Well, I don’t have steps to preview, but we continue to stress the need for – with our Egyptian counterparts, we stress both publicly and privately the need for due process and for individualized judicial processes for all in the interest – in the interest of justice. We think the right to due process is critical to the stability and the prosperity that Egypt seeks. And so we certainly continue to make that point to our Egyptian colleagues.

QUESTION: The court’s final decision will be on June 2nd, I guess. And any U.S. official present or Secretary planning to call any counterpart in Egypt?

MR RATHKE: Mm-hmm. I don’t have – I don’t have calls to preview, but we do – we do note that this is a preliminary sentence that was handed down over the weekend. And as I said, we continue to have frank conversations with our counterparts.


QUESTION: Since this is a preliminary sentence, which was going to be my next question, what’s the threat to Egypt if they actually go forward, confirm this sentence, and then hang or otherwise kill the former president?

MR RATHKE: Well, I’m not going to make a prediction about that. We have made our views and we continue to make our views clear to the Egyptian Government. We believe that all Egyptians, regardless of their political affiliation, are entitled to equal and fair treatment before the law. That includes full respect for their rights to due process, and we remain opposed to politicized arrests and detentions.

QUESTION: So you can’t spell out any possible repercussion to Egypt if they --

MR RATHKE: Well, I’m not going to spell out in advance ---

QUESTION: -- if they flagrantly ignore what you just said and do what you just said was so unjust – in your words?

MR RATHKE: Well, what I also said is we continue to have frank, private discussions with the Government of Egypt. I’m not going to --

QUESTION: Yeah. But that’s --

MR RATHKE: I’m not going to --

QUESTION: -- that’s not a punishment. Frank discussions is sometimes even a reward for countries that have problems as well with you. So I mean, is that it? If you do this, we’ll have frank discussions?