U.S. Senators John McCain (R-AZ), Lindsey Graham (R-SC), John Hoeven (R-ND) and Richard Blumenthal (D-CT) released the following statement regarding the decision today by the Egyptian judiciary to lift the travel restrictions on American and other foreign employees of international non-governmental organizations (NGOs) in Egypt. The senators visited Egypt last week as part of a Congressional delegation.
"We welcome the decision today by the Egyptian judiciary to lift the travel restrictions on American and other foreign employees of international non-governmental organizations (NGOs) in Egypt, including the National Democratic Institute and the International Republican Institute. We are pleased and relieved that these individuals are now able to return home to their families.
"At the same time, we remain concerned about the fate of the many Egyptian employees who have worked for these NGOs and who remain in Egypt, where they are still subject to trial. These men and women have worked tirelessly on behalf of their fellow Egyptians to defend democracy, civil society, human rights, and the rule of law in their country. We hope that the recent decision to postpone the trial of these individuals until April will ultimately lead to the court proceedings being halted altogether. We will continue to advocate for the rights of these Egyptian NGO workers, who have done no wrong.
"Last week in Cairo, we had meetings with the Speaker of Parliament and other newly elected parliamentarians from across the political spectrum, with leaders of the Muslim Brotherhood, and with Field Marshal Tantawi and other members of the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces. These meetings reassured us that people of goodwill in both countries were working diligently to find a positive resolution to the recent crisis. No one did more in that regard than our Ambassador to Egypt, Anne Patterson. We are deeply grateful that one of America's best diplomats was working day and night on this important and sensitive matter. The events of the past two months may have tested U.S.-Egypt relations, but the strength of our relationship prevailed. This is an opportunity to reaffirm the enduring strategic importance of the U.S.-Egypt partnership and the commitment of the United States, including the Congress, to Egypt's democratic transition and future.
"We are encouraged by the constructive role played over the past week by the Muslim Brotherhood and its political party, the Freedom and Justice Party (FJP). Their statement of February 20 was important in helping to resolve the recent crisis. We know from our recent meetings in Cairo with the Speaker of Parliament, other leaders from the FJP and the Muslim Brotherhood, and members of Parliament from across the political spectrum, such as Anwar Al-Sadat, that the Parliament is considering new legislation to guarantee the rights of NGOs in Egypt. We strongly support these efforts and hope they will yield a new environment of liberty and protection for civil society groups in Egypt.
"Ultimately, the fate of NGOs in Egypt is not about America, despite the efforts of some to make it about America. It is about Egypt. It is about Egyptian democratic and civil society groups, the inherent rights they possess, and whether those rights are enshrined in law and protected by the government. It was the Mubarak regime's restriction and oppression of civil society in Egypt that motivated Egyptians to rise up last year in protest for their human rights and dignity. The Egyptian revolution inspired Egypt's neighbors. It inspired America. And it continues to inspire the world."