20 October 2017
Subject: President Abdel-Fattah el-Sisi’s official visit to France
Dear President Macron,
In view of Egyptian President Abdel-Fattah el-Sisi’s forthcoming official visit to France, EuroMed Rights, Coordination SUD, the International Federation for Human Rights (FIDH), the Cairo Institute for Human Rights Studies and Reporters Without Borders (RSF) would like to draw your attention to the deplorable situation of civil society and human rights in Egypt. We are counting on you to remind President Sisi that France does not support Egypt’s repressive practices and believes that major reforms are needed to promote human rights, democracy and civil society.
Human rights defenders, journalists and LGBT activists are constantly harassed and prosecuted for peacefully pursuing their activities. The most obvious example is Case No. 173 of 2011, which has already resulted in the conviction of 40 human rights defenders and employees of international NGOs. We urge you to ask your Egyptian counterpart to end the campaign to criminalize human rights defenders and stop prosecuting them for legitimate and peaceful activities.
On 29 May, President Sisi approved a new law regulating the work of NGOs (NGO Law No. 70/2017), which makes it very complicated to create, operate and fund an NGO. The new law not only discourages non-profits but also provides grounds for closing many of them and could result in the disappearance of much of the NGO sector. We ask you to appeal to President Sisi to repeal this law and replace it by one that respects Egypt’s constitution and international standards on human rights and freedom of association.
It is also crucial to reiterate the position that the European Union took at the EU-Egypt Association Council meeting of 25 July 2017, and the EU’s concern about the consequences of this law on NGO activity and the space for debate and discussion in Egypt. We ask you to urge your Egyptian counterpart to stop practices that violate Egypt’s obligations under international human rights law and Egypt’s 2014 constitution.
Finally, we urge you to ensure respect for the EU Common Position 2008/944/CFSP defining common rules governing control of exports of military technology and equipment and to apply the conclusions of the EU Council meeting of 21 August 2013. We therefore ask you to immediately suspend all exports of military and surveillance technology and equipment to Egypt and to suspend all contracts currently being negotiated in these sectors. This suspension should continue until the Egyptian authorities stop their violent crackdown on human rights NGOs and peaceful dissidents, and the grave violations of international law taking place in the Sinai under the cover of combatting terrorism. This crackdown will lead to neither stability nor security. On the contrary, terrorist attacks continue to take place throughout Egypt despite the extension of the state of emergency.
All these human rights violations are taking Egypt further and further away from the democratic aspirations that were widely expressed in the Arab world in 2011. The repressive policies presage a dark future, feed resentment and despair, and constitute time bombs in what is a key regional country. Like the Arab world as a whole, Egypt cannot be eternally condemned to either dictatorship or religious fanaticism. Our insistence on respect for rights is a lever to help them escape this vicious circle.
We hope that our appeal will be heard and we stand ready to respond to any questions you have on this subject.
President of EuroMed Rights
President of Coordination SUD
President of the International Federation for Human Rights (FIDH)
Bahey eldin Hassan
Director of the Cairo Institute for Human Rights Studies
Secretary-General of Reporters Without Borders (RSF)