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Rights advocates urge Macron to address human rights during Sisi visit

French President Emmanuel Macron and Egyptian President Abdel Fattah Al-Sisi in Paris, France on 24 October 2018 [Chesnot/Getty Images)
French President Emmanuel Macron and Egyptian President Abdel Fattah Al-Sisi in Paris, France on 24 October 2018 [Chesnot/Getty Images)

Egyptian President Abdel Fattah Al-Sisi will be received in France today with a military welcome ceremony in what was intended to be a visit to cement close ties between the two countries, but which has been the focus of criticism by human rights advocates.

As Al-Sisi has consolidated control across Egypt, Paris and Cairo have grown closer, economically and militarily, despite the well documented and severe human rights abuses carried out by the Egyptian regime.

In June, Human Rights Watch (HRW) criticised French arms sales to Egypt as "shocking" and "appalling" in the context of Egypt's human rights violations.

READ: Egypt rights group head hopes prison release will help other prisoners

In 2019 France sold $1.1 billion of arms to Egypt, despite international obligations which prohibit arms sales to countries where there is a high risk they could be used to carry out serious arms violations.

Between 2013 and 2017 France was Egypt's main arms supplier, delivering $1.6 billion worth of military and security equipment in 2017.

HRW 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.

Whilst rights groups accuse French President Emmanuel Macron of turning a blind eye to Al-Sisi's violations, French officials say they can be more effective criticising the government in private.

In November, there was an outcry following Macron's defence of caricatures of the Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) which Al-Sisi joined, but the relationship appears to have been repaired quickly.

Egypt rights group head hopes prison release will help other prisoners

Both countries agree over Libya and countering Turkey's influence in the region.

Rights groups have called on the French president to raise the issue of human rights with Al-Sisi particularly after the arrest of three senior staff members of the Egyptian Initiative for Personal Rights (EIPR) after they met with Western diplomats.

They were released on Thursday after an international outcry but some 60,000 political prisoners remain in detention.

Among the detained is Egypt's coordinator for the BDS Ramy Shaath. His wife, Celine Lebrun Shaath, who is French, wrote on Twitter: "Mr Emmanuel Macron, my husband, human rights defender #RamyShaath has been arbitrarily detained in Egypt for 518 days. You're hosting @AlsisiOfficial who has the power to release him. Please, urge him to free my husband and reunite our family."

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