In an approximately $4.5 billion deal, France has agreed to sell war planes to Egypt without any contingency for human rights.
Between an unstable backdrop of radical religious terrorism and mutual suspicion of the Turkish president, France and Egypt’s relationship has become closer in recent years. The current deal builds upon recent deals, contributing to an increasing mass of destructive military weaponry. By agreeing to sell its ally 30 Rafale fighter jets, France grants Egypt definitive support and potentially provocative weaponry. While the Egyptian government claims that its amassing weaponry is motivated by jihadist threat and other uncertainties caused by terrorism in the Middle East, its seeming callousness regarding citizens’ lives raises concerns over expanding Egyptian military power.
Egyptian president Abdel Fattah al-Sisi is already under scrutiny for his government’s management of internal affairs. After al-Sisi’s regime recouped control from the first civilian president in 2014, international groups have become increasingly concerned with Egypt’s neglect for its citizens’ human rights. Amnesty International recently noted “miserable conditions in Egyptian prisons, torture and unfair trials,” and the United Nations and European Parliament have expressed similar concerns.
“I think it is more effective to have a policy of dialogue than a policy of boycott which would reduce the effectiveness of one of our partners in the fight against terrorism and for regional stability,” Macron said in defense of the deal, but his remarks have done little to ease tensions. Benedicte Jeannerod, director of Humans Rights Watch, was quick to condemn the decision. In a statement to Reuters, Jeannerod said, “By signing a mega-arms contract with Sisi’s government while the latter presides over the worst repression in decades in Egypt, the eradication of the human rights community in the country and undertakes extremely serious violations under the pretext of the fight against terrorism, France is only encouraging this ruthless repression.”
The new war planes only make Egypt more likely to engage in violent armed conflict. By not only ignoring the human rights abuses al-Sisi is committing but also giving the sale contract no condition to protect human rights, France sets a dangerous precedent of noninterference by enabling and increasing the Egyptian government’s military power.
The deal prompts questions of what international allyship entails. To what degree, if at all, should an ally’s internal affairs govern the responsibilities and actions of one’s own country? Can it ever be acceptable to turn a blind eye to an ally’s human rights violations? While each situation’s details would likely be influential, human rights violations are unquestionably condemnable. Macron’s agreement to see the fighter jets with no human rights condition enables the Egyptian government to continue committing abuse against their own citizens.
International groups have expressed concerns about Egypt’s internal affairs, but there must be a stronger, united front against the government’s actions. While the world’s powers should all ideally be united, it is imperative that the European Union specifically opposes al-Sisi’s human rights abuses and actively supports preventative efforts against the government.
While acts of terror have had powerful influence on international policy in recent years, the internal suppression or outright violation of human rights is greatly problematic. France’s complacency in the fighter jets deal casts a worrying light on future international trade deals. In the midst of heightening international tension in the South China Sea, between Russia and America, and in the Tigray embattlement region, Macron has set a foreboding precedent. International groups, including the news and media, must remain vigilant to expose abuses and advocate for human rights.
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