German arms sales to Egypt must meet human rights criteria, foreign minister says

The German decision is in line with the coalition government’s position of reducing arms sales to non-European and NATO countries. Egypt is the leading recipient of German weapons

February 15, 2022 by Peoples Dispatch
German Foreign Minister Annalena Baerbock met Egyptian Foreign Minister Sameh Shoukry in Cairo at the end of her Middle East tour

Germany will place conditions on arms sales to Egypt based on the country’s human rights record, foreign minister Annalena Baerbock said on Saturday, February 12. Human rights violations in Egypt have been consistently increasing since president Abdel Fattah el-Sisi took power in 2013. At a press conference last week in Egypt, the German foreign minister said that henceforth, human rights would not only play a role in arms sales to Egypt, but to other countries as well. Baerbock’s statements were in line with the position of  Germany’s coalition government of the Green Party, the Social Democrat Party and the Free Democrats Party (FDP), which has pledged to drastically decrease arms sales to countries outside the European Union and NATO.

Egypt is currently the top recipient of German weapons in the world, receiving close to 50% (€4.3 billion) out of the total country’s arms exports of €9.35bn ($10.65bn) in 2021. A large portion of these sales were maritime and air defense weapons.

Since the el-Sisi regime came to power, the Egyptian government has regularly targeted human rights activists, bloggers, journalists, lawyers, pro-democracy and free speech defenders, political opponents and countless others in an effort to silence criticism or dissent against the government. More than 60,000 Egyptians have become political prisoners since 2013, with many languishing in prison without any prospects of facing a charge or a trial.

International human rights groups have repeatedly called upon western countries to stop selling arms to Egypt. However, countries such as the United States have continued to export high-tech weapons to Egypt, justifying arms sales by citing the international fight against terrorism and Egypt’s status as a major regional ally of the US. Last month, the US approved the sale of arms worth USD 2.5 billion to Egypt. As a token gesture, the US withheld military aid worth USD 130 million out of the annual USD 300 million that it sends out to Egypt, citing national security and strategic interests.

Germany’s new decision regarding arms sales comes only weeks after roughly 200 European politicians, in a letter to the United Nations Human Rights Council (UNHRC), called for the formation of a monitoring and reporting mechanism on Egypt to address the country’s “human rights crisis,” adding that the UNHRC needs to take “resolute action”. The letter accused the international community of a “persistent failure to take any meaningful action to address Egypt’s human rights crisis,” adding that “this failure, along with continued support to the Egyptian government and reluctance to even speak up against pervasive abuses, has only deepened the Egyptian authorities’ sense of impunity.”

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