Amnesty International criticized the French government on Tuesday and accused it of breaking its own rules over arms exports to Egypt, which the watchdog said have been used for the internal repression of civilians.
Fresh analysis of open-source multimedia content showed “Egyptian security forces firing on protesters from within French supplied armored vehicles,” the rights group said in a statement, released coinciding with a news conference it was holding in Paris.
“The evidence clearly shows French supplied Sherpas and MIDS vehicles being used during some of the bloodiest incidents of internal repression,” against civilians. Sherpas, made by French automaker Renault, are similar to the American Humvees, while MIDS vehicles, made by defense contractor Arquus, are police-geared truck-like vehicles its maker describes as “designed for the most demanding internal security missions.” Both companies are members of Sweden’s Volvo group.
The report appears to focus on an infamous incident in Cairo on Aug. 14, 2013, when security forces cleared two Islamist sit-ins, killing hundreds of protesters in what independent human rights investigators described as the worst such massacre since that of China’s Tiananmen Square in 1989. They say not a single member of the security forces has been held to account for became known as the Rabaa massacre.
It notes that between 2012 and 2016, France supplied more arms to Egypt than it had in the previous 20 years, delivering more than 1.4 billion euros ($1.6 billion) worth of military and security equipment to Cairo in 2017 alone. France and other EU members are required to deny export licenses for arms sales if there is a clear risk the equipment or technology may be used for internal repression.
Egypt has gone on an armaments spending spree in recent years under the leadership of general-turned-president Abdel-Fattah el-Sissi, despite having an economy that falls far short of providing enough to lift the third of the country in poverty out of it.
“It is appalling that France has continued to provide Egypt with military equipment after it was used in one of the most deadly assaults on protesters witnessed anywhere in the 21st century,” said Najia Bounaim, North Africa Campaigns Director at Amnesty International.
“The fact that these transfers were made – and continued to be made – even though the Egyptian authorities have taken zero steps toward accountability and have failed to introduce any measures to signal an end to their pattern of abuses, puts France at risk of complicity in the ongoing human rights crisis in Egypt.”
Amnesty said a French official conceded that while sales had been made to the Egyptian military for its war against extremist insurgents in places like north Sinai, some armored vehicles had been diverted to the internal security forces.
The United States remains Egypt’s top weapons provider, with an annual $1.3 billion in assistance that stretches back decades.