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Amnesty: France violates international law by selling arms to Egypt

Egyptian President Abdel Fattah Sisi (L) and French president Emmanuel Macron (R) giving a conference [Anadolu Agency]

France is flouting international law by continuing to sell arms to Egypt, despite evidence that they have been used in brutal crackdowns on civilians, Amnesty International has revealed in a new report.

Published yesterday, the report, “Egypt: How French Arms Were Used to Crush Dissent”, provides evidence that Egyptian security forces used French supplied military equipment to violently crush protests between 2012 and 2015.

Over 20 hours of video footage, hundreds of photographs and 450 gigabytes of further audio-visual material provided by local human rights groups and media, analysed by Amnesty also shows that French weaponry was used during the Rabaa massacre of 2013, in which over 1,000 people were killed, and some 4,000 injured.

It is appalling that France has continued to provide Egypt with military equipment after it was used in one of the most deadly assaults on protesters witnessed anywhere in the 21st century

Najia Bounaim, North Africa Campaigns Director at Amnesty International, said in a statement.

“The fact that these transfers were made – and continued to be made – even though the Egyptian authorities have taken zero steps towards accountability and have failed to introduce any measures to signal an end to their pattern of abuses, puts France at risk of complicity in the ongoing human rights crisis in Egypt.”

Between 2012 and 2016 France supplied more arms to Egypt than it had in the previous 20 years; and in 2017 alone it delivered more than €1.4 billion ($1.62 billion) worth of military and security equipment to Egypt.

The transfer of armoured vehicles to Egypt is a violation of the European Union’s 2008 Common Position which governs the control of exports of military technology and equipment. Regulations require all EU states to deny an export licence if there is a clear risk that the arms being exported could be used for internal repression.

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“We have raised the issue of apparent ‘misuse’ of French-supplied military equipment with the French authorities on many occasions and have repeatedly attempted to clarify the exact volume and nature of these transfers, including the intended end-users. So far the French authorities have failed to give us an adequate response,” Bounaim said.

In responding to Amnesty, French authorities stated that they have only licenced such equipment to the Egyptian military for counterterrorism operations being conducted in the Sinai, and not for law enforcement purposes.

However, footage obtained by Amnesty clearly shows the logo of the Ministry of the Interior Special-Operation Forces and Central Security Forces painted on the bodywork of the French-supplied vehicles that were deployed in major cities like Cairo.

The NGO also raised concerns over the use of equipment in the Sinai, given the extensive human rights violations that have been documented in the security operation against fighters, some of whom are Daesh militants. Nearly 420,000 residents in four north eastern cities are in urgent need of humanitarian assistance due to the ongoing battle, according to Human Rights Watch, with the military also using US-manufactured cluster bombs in the north of the province earlier this year.

Amnesty has called on France to immediately stop all weapons transfers to Egypt until the country “holds independent and effective investigations into the serious crimes committed by the security forces and holds those responsible to account”.

READ: 83 women held in Egypt prisons, says human rights activist

Since coming to power five years ago, having overthrown the country’s first democratically-elected government, President Abdel Fattah Al-Sisi has ruled Egypt with an iron fist. State-sanctioned extrajudicial killings, enforced disappearances, and closures of media agencies have also become rampant during his term in office

Egypt has justified its crackdown on opponents as necessary to protect national security. Last year, President Al-Sisi told US officials in New York that human rights should not be judged from a Western perspective, arguing that Egypt had taken numerous measures to ensure the economic and social wellbeing of its citizens.

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