For the second year in a row Egypt is the main buyer of weapons systems exported by Italian military companies, the Italian Network for Peace and Disarmament revealed yesterday.
“Arms trade with the authoritarian [Abde Fattah] Al-Sisi government therefore remains flourishing, despite the serious violations of human rights and non-cooperation in the [Giulio] Regeni and [Patrick George] Zaki cases,” the network said.
Regeni, a 28-year-old postgraduate student at Cambridge University, went missing in Cairo on 25 January 2016. Nine days later, his body was found dumped by a road outside Cairo suburbs. A postmortem examination indicated that he had been tortured before his death. Egypt has stalled efforts to hold officials accountable for Regeni’s death, despite pressure from rights organisations and his family.
Egyptian researcher Patrick Zaki was arrested upon his arrival in Egypt on 7 February 2020 and has been awaiting trial since on charges of spreading fake news, inciting protests and attempting to overthrow the regime.
According to the network, “during 2020, the total amount of new authorisations issued for the export of military equipment reached €3,927 million [$4,760 million] in value, a sharp drop (-25%) compared to the total for 2019.”
However, the network said, “it should be remembered that 2020 was the ‘year of the pandemic’, with a very strong impact on the country’s economy, which, however, does not seem to have overwhelmed the military sector.”
European countries have been widely criticised for putting money above human rights when it comes to ties with Egypt. The Italian oil giant Eni’s investments in the north African country stand at around $13 billion. In 2018 trade between Italy and Egypt hit $7.2 billion.
A number of observers have pointed out that Egypt is purchasing large numbers of Italian arms to compensate for Regeni’s murder, and that Italy is using political pressure as leverage to secure better deals.