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Rights group slams France's 'disgraceful' approach to Egypt ahead of Sisi visit

French President Emmanuel Macron meets his Egyptian counterpart on Tuesday [Getty]

Date of publication: 23 October, 2017

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Human Rights Watch has accused France of "ignoring serious abuses" by the Egyptian Sisi regime and urged Macron to ensure that human rights are central to the countries' relationship.

Human Rights Watch has urged French President Emmanuel Macron to end France's "disgraceful policies of indulgence" towards Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi on Monday ahead of a meeting between the two leaders in Paris.

Macron, who raised alleged human rights abuse in Russia with Vladimir Putin in May during his trip to France, will welcome Sisi to the Elysee Palace on Tuesday for talks set to be focused on security.

"President Macron should not miss the chance to make a first impression on Sisi that Egypt's human rights record will not be given a pass," said Bénédicte Jeannerod, France director at HRW.

"Continuing to support Egypt's repressive government would betray the country's brave activists, who face grave risks trying to make their country better."

Egypt is a major buyer of French military equipment with orders worth more than 5.0 billion euros (5.8 billion dollars) since 2015 including for 24 Rafale fighter jets.

France has also provided many other weapons and military services including a military satellite for US$700 million, two helicopter carriers for US$1 billion, and rockets as well as small firearms and ammunitions for almost US$1 billion.

HRW said France should "stop ignoring serious abuses" and pressure Sisi by making future economic cooperation and military support conditional on improvements in human rights.

Continuing to support Egypt's repressive government would betray the country's brave activists, who face grave risks trying to make their country better.

"President Macron should refuse to continue France's disgraceful policies of indulgence toward Sisi's repressive government," Jeannerod added. 

A statement from Macron's office last week said the talks would focus on security and regional security "but also the human rights situation to which France is particularly attentive".

Rights groups have repeatedly accused former army chief and now President Sisi of repressive policies that stifle dissent in the media and politics, as well as the use of torture by security forces.

Egyptian authorities have arrested or charged at least 60,000 people, forcibly disappeared hundreds for months at a time, handed down preliminary death sentences to hundreds more, and sent more than 15,000 civilians to military courts.

The primary target has been the Muslim Brotherhood, the country’s largest opposition movement, but almost no single peaceful group escaped the repression, HRW said.

But the most populous country in the Middle East is viewed as a vital partner by Western countries which fear more instability in the war-ravaged region.

At the weekend, at least 30 policemen were killed in a shootout on a road 200 kilometres (125 miles) southwest of Cairo.

French Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian sent his condolences and pledged solidarity in "the fight against terrorism". 

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