The UK government reportedly paid almost £2 million in aid and defence funding to security projects in Egypt which would go towards policing, the criminal justice system and the treatment of juvenile detainees, according to the Guardian.
Documents obtained under the Freedom of Information Act show that the funding was granted to the Egyptian authorities through the Conflict, Stability and Security Fund (CSSF) whose objective was described as “opaque” by a parliamentary inquiry this year.
MPs and Lords criticised the secretive fund whose aim is to build security and help with conflicts abroad.
The news of the funding has been blasted by human rights groups who routinely condemn Egypt’s security forces for abuses which include torture of detainees, the imprisonment of political opposition members and journalists and its repression against protesters.
Human rights group Reprieve expressed its concern that the £650,000 of the £1.85 million granted through the CSSF in 2015-16 “appeared to involve direct engagement with the Egyptian police and criminal justice system”. The group called for further details from the Foreign and Commonwealth Office to be released but had their request rejected due to that information not in the public interest.
The Foreign and Commonwealth Office said that “providing further detail about the projects could jeopardise the trust and confidence in us by the Egyptian government and therefore our ability to both protect and promote UK interests in the future”.
The government’s funding of Egypt’s security projects is deeply troubling when looking at its use in detaining juveniles. This week marks four years since the detention of Irish-Egyptian Ibrahim Halawa and his sisters who were detained after protesting against the Rabaa massacre. Halawa’s sisters were later released but Ibrahim, who was only 17 when he was arrested and therefore a juvenile, remains in prison charged along with hundreds of others for taking part in illegal protests.
The Halawa’s case shines a light on the nature of Egypt’s criminal justice system which has been criticised continuously since a military coup in 2013 placed Abdel Fattah Al-Sisi at the helm of government and purged the country of dissent.
Britain’s involvement in funding that system will raise questions about what the UK authorities are doing to hold Egypt to account for its security abuses.
Kate Osamor, the shadow international development secretary, called for all government departments to publish any aid-related data.
This alarming case raises yet more urgent questions about how the National Security Council is deploying the CSSF to spend aid money that should be earmarked to help the world’s poorest.
In a recent briefing by the FCO, the human rights situation in Egypt was described as continuously “deteriorating” with reports of torture, police brutality and enforced disappearance common place in the country.