Human Rights Watch has said that French arms sales to Egypt are “shocking” and “appalling” considering the North African country’s human rights record.
The statement follows the French government’s latest report on arms exports which documents the European country’s 2019 sales and transfers.
Qatar topped the list, followed by Saudi Arabia and then Egypt, which racked up €1 billion ($1.1 billion) in arms sales.
“These figures illustrate the profound contradictions of French diplomacy,” French Director for the watchdog Benedicte Jeannerod wrote, adding:
Not only is it contrary to France’s international obligations to persist in selling arms to [Egypt and Saudi] despite the clear risk they may be used to commit serious violations and war crimes, the sales give an effective green light to abusers.
“They undermine France’s credibility in its role promoting international law and universal human rights values at a time when they face serious attacks around the world.”
France’s international obligations prohibit arms sales to countries where there is a high risk they could be used to carry out serious arms violations, says Jeannerod.
Human Rights Watch has documented war crimes committed by the Egyptian army in North Sinai, where the government is waging a protracted, disproportionate and unsuccessful campaign against the local Daesh affiliate which has targeted the local population.
Despite this, France has justified its ongoing support on the grounds that Egypt is a bulwark against terrorism with Macron once declaring: “Egypt’s security is France’s security.”
Amnesty International has documented the use of French equipment in the security forces’ repression of protesters under General turned President Abdel Fattah Al-Sisi.
Between 2012 and 2015 Egypt used armoured vehicles manufactured by Renault Trucks and delivered by France “in some of the bloodiest operations of internal repression,” Amnesty has said.
Between 2013 and 2017 France was Egypt’s main arms supplier, delivering €1.4 billion ($1.6 billion) worth of military and security equipment in 2017.
Military cooperation between France and Egypt has increased since Al-Sisi assumed power in the 2013 coup, despite the fact that rights abuses have got worse.
In 2017 four NGOs accused France of contributing to repression.