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1 week after minor faces death penalty, UK bolsters defence cooperation with Egypt

High school student Ahmed Saddouma was sentenced to death by Egypt's judiciary
High school student Ahmed Saddouma was sentenced to death by Egypt's judiciary

Just one week after rights groups condemned British authorities for failing to publicly condemn the death sentence of a minor, UK Minister for the Armed Forces Mark Lancaster and Egyptian Minister of Defence General Mohamed Zaki met to discuss enhancing UK-Egypt defence cooperation.

Ahmed Saddouma was arrested in the middle of the night in March 2015, forcibly disappeared for two and a half months, tortured and sentenced to death, despite the fact that he was only 17 at the time of the alleged crime. It is against international law to administer the death penalty to a minor.

His sentence has now been reduced to 15 years, but 84 Egyptians on death row who have now exhausted all litigation could be executed at any time.

The British government has repeatedly come under fire for their close ties to the Egyptian regime, which is among the most repressive in the world. They have provided counter-terrorism assistance the North African country even though opponents of the regime are regularly accused of terrorism.

Read: As Egypt starves, Sisi stirs horror in Libya and Sudan

In 2016 British investments in Egypt totalled more than $30 billion despite the fact that since the 2013 coup, observers put the number of political prisoners in the country at 60,000.

Then ambassador John Casson said he was “hungry for more” investment and on returning from a trade delegation to the country, then Middle East Minister Tobias Ellwood said he could not remember if he had raised the issue of human rights.

In the four years following the 2013 Rabaa massacre in which 1,000 pro-democracy Egyptians were killed, Britain licenced $172 million of arms to Egypt compared to $106,000 in the four years before.

Defence cooperation between the UK and Egypt has increased significantly in the last several years.

Of the meeting, British Ambassador to Egypt Sir Geoffrey Adams said: “The UK recognises the pivotal role Egypt plays in the region’s security. Our growing partnership ensures that together we stay one step ahead of common threats and build regional and international security.”

This new push for defence cooperation is particularly worrying in the context of the Egyptian military’s war on North Sinai. A recent report by Human Rights Watch details the war crimes being carried out in the governorate in the north eastern part of the country, including arbitrary arrests including of children, forced disappearances, killings and torture.

Along with its regional allies Saudi Arabia and the UAE, Egypt is fully behind Libyan General Khalifa Haftar, whose forces have been bombarding the UN-backed Government of National Accord in Tripoli for over two months now and have killed some 600 people.

The UK, along with most of the EU, officially supports the GNA.

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