France’s government on Wednesday denied reports it had broken its own rules over arms exports by equipping Egypt with weapons used for the internal repression of civilians.
Responding to allegations by rights group Amnesty International, French Defence Minister Florence Parly told a Senate committee that French weapons were destined to Egypt’s military and not the police.
“If Egypt uses hardware that was exported long ago […] against its own civilian population, that was not our objective,” Parly told the Foreign Affairs and Defence Committee.
Her comments came a day after Amnesty International released a statement stating that analysis of open-source multimedia content shows, “Egyptian security forces firing on protesters from within French supplied armored vehicles.”
The NGO added: “The evidence clearly shows French supplied Sherpas and MIDS vehicles being used during some of the bloodiest incidents of internal repression.”
Amnesty’s statement mentions the clearing by Egyptian security forces of two Islamist sit-ins in Cairo on Aug. 14, 2013, in which hundreds of protesters were killed.
Leading arms dealer
As a European Union member, France is bound by a 2013 directive ordering all member states to “suspend export licenses towards Egypt of all equipment that can be used for internal repression”.
Since then, however, France has overtaken the United States as Egypt’s leading weapons purveyor, according to French daily Le Monde, with more than 4 billion euros worth of armaments delivered between 2012 and 2017.
The sale of French arms to Saudi Arabia has faced similar scrutiny, with UN investigators accusing a Saudi-led military intervention in neighbouring Yemen of killing thousands of civilians, torturing detainees, raping civilians and using child soldiers as young as 8.
“These arms sales are subject to rigorous analysis […], which takes into account a number of criteria including the nature of the hardware, the respect of human rights, the preservation of peace and stability in the region,” Parly told the committee on Thursday, though adding: “We cannot ignore the impact this has on our defence industry and jobs.”