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U.S. needs to be more critical of Egypt's diminished democracy

Tuesday, October 5, 2010; A14

The Sept. 30 editorial "Beyond Mr. Mubarak" was right to point out that advancing democracy in Egypt is in the United States' interest and that pending elections are likely to be anything but democratic. Political and social tensions are increasing in Egypt, not least because of the government's uncertainty about how to manage the succession process from octogenarian President Hosni Mubarak. The denial of basic rights and freedoms to nonviolent government critics and political opponents is widespread and persistent.

The U.S. government should be more willing than it has been to criticize the Egyptian authorities in specific terms for violations that take place. It should make the case forcefully to Egyptian leaders, in public and private, that such practices harm Egypt's long-term interests in development, social peace and prosperity for its people.

The U.S. government will lose nothing by calling things by their proper names in Egypt, even if Egypt's leaders object. Failure to speak out against human rights violations will be seen as complicity by many people in Egypt and throughout the Arab world, which would risk further tarnishing America's already battered reputation in the region.

Neil Hicks, New York

The writer is international policy adviser for Human Rights First.

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