France’s support for the Egyptian dictatorship should be the subject of a parliamentary commission of inquiry

Press release
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PARIS, 23/11/2021 - The revelations of the investigative media outlet Disclose published on Sunday 21 and Tuesday 23 November, if confirmed, call for immediate clarification from the French government and strong measures to establish responsibility. The articles detail the duplicity of the French state in its military exports, and more broadly analyse its relationship with totalitarian powers in a new light. Since Abdel Fattah al-Sissi seized power in 2013, FIDH, the LDH and several human rights organisations have repeatedly denounced France’s unconditional support for the Egyptian regime which has contributed to the repression of the civilian population despite France’s full knowledge of the facts.

Disclose’s investigations detail how Cairo uses intelligence provided by the French state, under the guise of anti-terrorism, to target civilians. The victims are said to be small-scale cross-border traffickers from Libya, who are eliminated by bombing, without any other form of trial: these "informal" executions are said to number in the dozens. This situation, says Disclose, has been ongoing since the quinquennium of Hollande, despite alerts from French services to various governments.

The second part of the revelations, published on Tuesday 23 November, confirms that a number of French companies have sold surveillance, mass interception and data collection tools to Egypt. This information was previously revealed in the report "A Repression Made in France", published by the LDH and FIDH in July 2018.

Following the initiatives of FIDH’s judicial action group, the company Nexa Technologies and four of its executives, were indicted during the summer of 2021 by investigating judges of the Paris Judicial Court for crimes against humanity and war crimes.

To complete the repressive palette, it has now been discovered, subject to confirmation, that Dassault Systèmes has exported Exalead, a search engine that cross-references different databases on behalf of the MID, the dreaded intelligence service of the Egyptian regime. Without the approval of the Service des biens à double usage (SBDU) a French government control authority whose mission is to ensure that technologies sold to non-European countries are not diverted from their intended use to commit human rights violations, the sale of this spyware would not have been possible. The end result: the persecution, abduction, torture and possibly even execution of civilians whose activities do not suit the Egyptian authorities.

The seriousness of the facts reported could lead France to be accused of assisting another state in violating international law. This underlines the lack of parliamentary control of the government’s action, as the spirit of the Constitution requires. This information reminds us of the importance of setting up a parliamentary commission of enquiry to clarify the possible involvement of French services with the Al-Sissi dictatorship, possibly leading to acts of torture and extra-judicial executions. This is a request that has been insisted upon by FIDH and several other NGOs since 2018. More broadly, FIDH and LDH call for the creation of a permanent parliamentary control body, both a priori and a posteriori, to monitor the exportation of military equipment and dual-use equipment granted by the executive. In accordance with France’s commitments under the 2014 International Arms Trade Treaty (ATT) and the 2008 European Union Common Position, the aim is to prevent the diversion of such equipment from being used to violate human rights or to fuel conflicts, as is the case in Yemen.

The FIDH and its partner organisations demand that the French government allows the justice system to fully investigate these new revelations, without hindering the judges and investigators who are trying to shed light on the possible complicity of French companies.

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