The shadow of France looms over the repression in Egypt. Nearly seven years after the revolution of 25 January 2011, and five years after the “coup of force” military of the general Abdelfattah al-Sissi, that has led to the removal of the islamist president Mohammed Morsi on 3 July 2013, the NGO Amnesty international reveals the explosive report Egypt. Of French weaponry in the heart of the repression. Advocacy officer Weapons and international justice at Amnesty, Aymeric Elluin answers to the questions of the Point.
The Point : That contains your report ?
Aymeric Elluin, advocacy officer Weapons and international Justice at Amnesty.
© DRAymeric Elluin : Our report looks at the sales of weapons from France to Egypt since the uprising of January 2011 to today. It captures the way in which the exports of French weaponry has increased exponentially since that date. This document focuses on certain exports, including armoured vehicles produced by Renault Truck Defense, become Arquus in may 2018. It comes in three types of material : the armored Sherpa Light Scout equipped with a machine gun controlled ; the armoured Sherpa Light Station Wagon, which has to the rear a large cabin in which it is possible to transport soldiers ; and the vehicle MIDS for the maintenance of order, which is not armed.
what call you the France ?
These vehicles were used during some of the events of the repression in Egypt. According to the French government, France exported these vehicles between 2012 and 2014, the destination of the egyptian ministry of Defence. However, in reality, a part of the armoured Sherpa have been used by the security forces of the ministry of Interior to suppress the protests, notably during the massacre of the square Rabaa al-Adawiya on 14 August 2013, in which over 1,000 people were killed.
What are your sources ?
At the time, we had researchers on the ground, who have collected evidence that the egyptian security forces shooting at protesters from these French armour. Then, we used open sources : video and photos available on the Internet. We have also recovered sources with the activists. We did analyze this content through our service, digital verification, and on the basis of this information, we have compiled this report, which was traced to the use of vehicles to French in Egypt. In addition to the year 2013, these vehicles have also been sighted in the context of the suppression of demonstrations in 2014 and 2015. We have including a video of protests in January 2014, in which we see security forces fire on protesters in vehicles, MIDS.
Why call you directly to France ?
France has directly accused, as it provided the material of which it is seen that it has been used in the context of the repression. These armored vehicles have either served themselves to kill, such as the Sherpa Light Scout, on board of which were the egyptian security forces who have fired on August 14, 2013 in the massacre of Rabaa al-Adawiya. But the vehicles French were also used to facilitate repression, as part of the devices deployed by the egyptian ministry of the Interior to this effect. For example, they enabled to move troops, to close roads or to protect gunmen who had been firing.
But these vehicles have not been delivered by France to the egyptian army in the framework of combating terrorism in the Sinai ?
it is clear that at least part of these vehicles has been deployed not to fight against the terrorism, but in the context of peacekeeping operations of the order of the security forces. However, in all events where the participation of vehicles of france has been reported, it was the silencing of a popular movement of protest.
France is it illegal ?
There is clearly a common position in the european Union in the field of arms exports. It requires a number of criteria that States must take into account, especially the fact that you do not export equipment that can facilitate internal repression in a country, or the violation of the rights of man.
This text is binding ?
initially, it was only a code of conduct adopted in 1998. But it became in 2008 a joint position of the european Union with a binding legal force. And I remind you that on August 21, 2013, the member States of the european Union decided to suspend the transfer of equipment (military) to Egypt. A position reaffirmed in the conclusions of the Council of the european Union in February 2014, and which is still valid today. However, it does not seem to have been respected by France, as its exports continued in 2014.
But a dozen other european countries aren’t they violating their commitments ?
It is indeed a reality. Today, while this common position has the objective of harmonising the policy of States in Europe, notably in terms of arms exports, it is observed that most countries did not manage to stick to it. It is necessary that States strengthen this position in the framework of its revision, which arrives by the end of 2018, in order to make it more binding, with the possibility of sanctions. Because today, there isn’t. It’s the same on the international treaty on the arms trade.
Are there any French laws on export of weapons ?
When considering arms exports, if the material is classified as ” war “, then he must go to the ministry of Defence. This request is evaluated by the interministerial commission of studies of war material, which meets once per month and evaluate each material in the light of the common position of the european Union and the treaty on the arms trade treaty (UN treaty on the international trade in conventional arms, editor’s NOTE). These texts are intended to prevent the materials of war, or of maintaining order is exported to a country in the case where there is a risk of use for repression. France has continued to export in 2014 armoured vehicles to Egypt, while there was already evidence that the vehicles had been used in the repression of demonstrations.
What answers are brought to you by the French government and Renault ?
The secretariat general of Defense and national security, we wrote to us to mean that the export of vehicles MIDS was not subject to the control regime of war materials, or to the control regime of dual use goods. That is to say that, knowing the situation in Egypt, the company Renault Truck Defense has exported war material without having to ask for permission to the French government. The question is therefore to know how it is that a vehicle of the maintenance of order of 14 tons is not subject to the control of exports. For its part, Renault Truck Defense has always said that its armored vehicles had been exported to the egyptian ministry of Defence in respect of the French legislation and the regime of control of exports of war material. In reality, neither Renault Truck Defense nor the authorities did not give us concrete answers and adequate.
Why France would cease to export arms to Egypt if it does not risk any sanction ?
It is precisely here that it is absolutely necessary to strengthen the existing legal texts and to bring the matter (of the export of arms to countries ” at risk “, editor’s NOTE) in the framework of the public debate. We need to push for the French Parliament to grasp this issue and that there is a debate, that can lead to a strengthening of the control mechanism and the establishment of sanctions. Because the subject rest for the time being the prerogative of the executive.