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Should France be rolling out the red carpet for human rights abusers?

A Stop Fuelling War response to Egypt’s reception in France 7/12/2020 and weapons sales.

On the 7th December 2020, the French president Macron welcomed Egyptian Head of State Al-Sissi for an official state visit. In a press conference Macron stated that Egypt was an ally in the fight against terrorism. This is our response.

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Photo credit: Marc Javierre Kohan, photojournalist, Eurosatory

The birthplace of human rights rejects human rights.

Macron is backtracking on supporting human rights in Egypt, we wonder whether this is because of the arms sales that stopped happening after his statement in 2019. (a)
In January 2019, Macron said : “I also expressed to President SISSI my firm conviction […] that stability and lasting peace go hand in hand with respect for the liberties of each person, the dignity of each person and the rule of law. And the search for stability and security that drives us within the framework of our partnership, which we discussed together in October 2017, cannot be dissociated from the question of human rights.” (b)
At the state visit in Paris in December 2020, Macron did a u-turn on on his previous statement about human rights and said: “I will not condition matters of defence and economic cooperation on these disagreements (over human rights)” [...] “as such a policy would weaken Cairo in the fight against terrorism”. (c)

There is proof that the Egyptian regime used French weapons against civilians:

In an Amnesty international report published in 2018, it was shown that French weapons were used in civilian repression in Egypt. France has previously said they cannot control how the weapons they sold are used but that they had reassurance that it was for military purposes:
Amnesty International’s report said: “in fact some of the armoured vehicles were delivered to the forces of the Ministry of the Interior, or diverted to them, the same police forces in charge of the ferocious repression of the [2013] demonstrations”. (d)
The War on Terror is an excuse: if you want to fight terrorism you can do it without ignoring human rights - they are compatible.
According to Harlem Désir, former French Secretary of State for European Affairs: “The terrorist threat is still present in our countries. It would be a grave mistake to wish to oppose the fight against terrorism on the one hand and the defence of human rights on the other, to suggest that we should choose one at the expense of the other.” […] “Our duty is to do both. To fight terrorism with the greatest determination, with all necessary means, but always with the weapons of law, in respect of human rights and fundamental freedoms.” (e)

Selling more arms is not the answer to solving the issue of terrorism.
Egypt is a major customer for France but are these sales keeping people and the world safe?

There are alternative ways to look at solving the problems, such as this from Saferworld:

"Peaceful states are crafted by strong societies, and this means consistent support for human rights defenders, moderate political, religious or tribal actors, civil society groups, community voices and local development initiatives. Protecting civil space for this must be a priority of military as well as diplomatic planners."(f)

Does France regard the respect of human rights as being a universal principle or not? If this is a universal right, the French government needs to build in guarantees into its export agreements to ensure that the items sold will not be reassigned or used in ways that conflict with the original intended usage. If it is not a universal principle, then under what circumstances is it acceptable to breach the application of human rights for all in the importing country? Merely doing this for short-term economic gain (the export of goods) is, in our view, an unacceptable compromise on the ethical principles on which the French Republic is established.
It is also important for us to highlight that the current security measures of “defence” and arms sales are not making us safer and in fact are increasing insecurity for people all around the world, and in this case, the human rights defenders of Egypt.

a - http://www.assemblee-nationale.fr/dyn/15/rapports/cion_afetr/l15b3581_rapport-information#_Toc256000138 – Annexe 1
b- https://www.liberation.fr/planete/2019/02/01/l-egypte-signifie-sa-resistance-a-macron-sur-les-droits-de-l-homme_1706846
c- https://www.francetvinfo.fr/monde/afrique/egypte/emmanuel-macron-refuse-de-conditionner-aux-droits-de-l-homme-sa-cooperation-en-matiere-de-defense-avec-l-egypte_4210471.html
d - https://www.amnesty.fr/controle-des-armes/actualites/france-egypte-aux-armes-policiers-egyptiens
e - https://conseil-europe.delegfrance.org/N-opposons-pas-lutte-contre-le-terrorisme-et-defense-des-droits-de-l-Homme
f - https://www.saferworld.org.uk/resources/publications/1131-overview-lessons-on-counter-terror-and-countering-violent-extremism

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