France provided Egypt with intelligence and technology that enabled the North African state to commit crimes and serious human rights violations under the guise of fighting terrorism, the independent investigation site revealed French Disclose.
Based on hundreds of secret documents circulating at the highest level of the French state, Disclose released a weeklong series of investigations which began on Sunday, November 21, showing “France’s responsibility for the crimes committed by the dictatorship of Abdel Fattah al -Sisi in Egypt ”, including air strikes against civilians,
Following the July 2013 military seizure of power in Egypt and the uprooting of the country’s first democratically elected president, the European Union’s Business Council declared on August 21 that its member states “had decided to suspend licenses. export to Egypt for any equipment that could be used for domestic repression ”. However, a 2018 report from the International Federation of Human Rights (FIDH) indicated that “at least eight French companies – encouraged by one government after another – have nevertheless taken advantage of this repression to reap profits. records. Between 2010 and 2016, French arms deliveries to Egypt increased from € 39.6 million to € 1.3 billion.
According to Disclose, French presidential palaces, whether under François Hollande or Emmanuel Macron, were well aware of France’s role in these violations, but took no action to stop them.
One of Disclose’s reports showed that an intelligence mission that began in February 2016 as Operation Sirli to fight terrorism was derailed in a campaign of arbitrary executions. The mission, according to Disclose, was discussed in 2015 by the two countries’ main military and intelligence leaders and revolved around securing Egypt’s borders with Libya, a country torn by civil war. Cairo officials expressed concern about terrorist activities in its western deserts, to which France was happy to assist as the latter had just finalized the purchase of 24 Rafale fighter jets and two multi-purpose frigates (FREMM) for a total value of 5.6 billion euros.
A French team of 10 members deployed in Egypt for this mission was equipped with Merlin III, a light surveillance and reconnaissance aircraft, which would serve as ears and eyes for the team. However, in the absence of a cooperation agreement explicitly defining the purpose and scope of the mission, the Egyptian authorities quickly moved away from the theoretical objective of the mission – to identify terrorist threats.
But very quickly, the French team realized that they were being used to facilitate the killings of civilians suspected of smuggling activities. The team informed their superiors at regular intervals – over a year, then two and finally three years – but to no avail.
For the population of the western deserts of Egypt, the majority of whom live below the poverty line, the smuggling of cigarettes, drugs or weapons, as well as oil, rice, grains and cosmetics, provides much needed income. and too irresistible despite the risks associated with it. .
During the duration of the mission, the French state had accepted an Egyptian request to create “a short information transmission loop” from the aircraft to the base, the purpose of which, according to Disclose, was to enable the army Egyptian air force to fly towards the area to “treat” the target as quickly as possible.
As a result of this “short loop”, French forces may have been involved in at least 19 bombings against civilians between 2016 and 2018, according to classified documents obtained by Disclose. The report said:
The strikes often destroyed several vehicles and the number of victims could reach several hundred. According to the criteria of the resolution 56/83 of the General Assembly of the United Nations, the complicity of France in these illegal executions could be established.
Among the innocent civilians killed as a result of the raids, Disclose said, were Ahmed El-Fiky, an engineer, and two of his colleagues, whose van was targeted while working on the paving of a road near the oasis. city of Al-Bahariya, which has about 32,000 inhabitants. The family of the slain father of three have been forced to concede that the reason for his death is unknown, according to the report.
Repeated secret military reports were filed by members of the mission at the Elysee Palace, stressing the need for a cooperation agreement to restore the mission’s priority as the fight against terrorism, and stressing that the fight against terrorism. terrorism comes third in the objectives of the Egyptians – after trafficking and illegal immigration. Concerns expressed in one of these reports, released on November 23, 2017, included:
In the absence of surveillance means, the identification of pick-ups cannot be done without a separate surveillance element other than the initial overflight of which they were the subject. Also, the identification of certain vehicles and the resulting denial strikes could be called into question.
However, French President Macron continues to support the mission, which remains deployed in Egypt.
More French involvement
Among the revelations of Disclose is the way in which the little-known Luxembourg company CAE Aviation made employees – pilots, analysts and technicians – available to be part of the French team for Operation Sirli. The company was authorized by its contract with French intelligence to supply a light surveillance and reconnaissance aircraft – or ALSR – as well as a six-person operations team, made up of two pilots and four technicians. The company’s contract with French intelligence is protected by French defense secrecy laws.
The website revealed that two pilots and technical experts from CAE Aviation accompany regular military personnel on missions, which can last between five and six hours. The other two CAE technicians remain at the base, to centralize the information sent to them from the plane, before it is transmitted to the Egyptians. Disclose noted:
This invaluable aid given to the control of the desert region would make it direct witnesses to the repeated strikes by the Egyptian military against civilians.
In addition, the website also showed that three French companies – Nexa Technologies, Ercom-Suneris, Dassault Systèmes – provided Egypt with a massive cyber surveillance system that was used against NGOs, journalists, activists. and many others whose phones and laptops have been bugged by the state.
Online Response to Disclose
Following the publication of the Disclose reports, the website was added to hundreds of other websites that Egypt blocked.
Not surprisingly, Sisi’s regime is familiar with online and media censorship in the name of so-called counterterrorism
You can use a VPN / Tor.
– Ariane Lavrilleux (@AriaLavrilleux) 23 November 2021
The reports elicited a rich contribution from online commentators, presenting an analysis of the security, political and human rights situation in Egypt, and criticizing Paris’s support for violations against civilians.
– This level of operational integration with a foreign nation is something we haven’t really seen since the expulsion of the Soviets from Egypt.
Not only by tolerating the foreign presence (as it always does to some extent), but by welcoming foreign military / international operations into the country. Where else? pic.twitter.com/KWadj4pVVZ
– Egyptian Defense Review (@EgyptDefReview) 23 November 2021
Other analysts have also stressed the importance of the information first revealed in the survey series:
There is no question that France was not aware of all this. The fact that the two parties maintained sufficient confidence and will to conduct these surveillance operations is indeed a revelation; furthermore, the newspapers are the first time that Egypt’s priorities at the border have been so clearly documented.
– Allison L McManus (@AllisonLMcManus) 22 November 2021