NGOs say France participating in Egypt repression

Rights groups publish report blaming France for aiding Egyptian repression for past five years through arms, surveillance sales.

PARIS - France has "participated in the bloody Egyptian repression" for the past five years by delivering weapons and surveillance systems to President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi's government, rights groups charged in a report published Monday.
The study was released as Egypt's Defence Minister Mohamed Zaki was due to undertake an official visit to Paris on Monday and comes after France's Foreign Minister Jean-Yves le Drian met Sisi in Cairo last week.
Zaki would "meet senior military officials in France to discuss ways to strengthen joint co-operation", Egyptian army spokesman Tamer al-Refai said Monday.
Commissioned by four French and Egyptian human rights groups, the report found French arms sales to Egypt had leapt from 39.6 million to 1.3 billion euros ($1.5 billion) between 2010 and 2016.
In addition, "by supplying Egyptian security services and law enforcement agencies with powerful digital tools, they have helped establish an Orwellian surveillance and control architecture that is being used to eradicate all forms of dissent and citizen action," the groups said.
They charged that French companies were also complicit in what they called a "relentless crackdown" since Sisi overthrew Islamist president Mohamed Morsi in 2013.
The report cited companies selling technology used for mass data interception and crowd control, as well as a surveillance system under which tens of thousands of opponents and activists had been arrested.
"The Egyptian revolution of 2011 was driven by an ultra-connected 'Facebook generation' that knew how to mobilise crowds," said Bahey Eldin Hassan, director of the Cairo Institute for Human Rights Studies (CIHRS), one of the groups behind the report.
"Today France is helping to crush this generation through the establishment of an Orwellian surveillance and control system aimed at nipping in the bud any expression of protest," he said.
The report charges that at least eight French companies have "profited from this repression" despite a European Union declaration in 2013 that member states had suspended export licences to Egypt for equipment that could be used for domestic repression.
The companies include Arquus -- formerly Renault Trucks Defense -- as well as major defence supplier DCNS.
"Our organisations seek from French companies and authorities an immediate end to these deadly exports," the groups said.
The report was commissioned by the CIHRS alongside the French-based International Federation for Human Rights, Human Rights League and Armaments Observatory.