Sale of surveillance equipment to Egypt: Paris Prosecutor opens a judicial investigation

In Egypt /Road Map Program, Statements and Position Papers, Uncategorized by Tarek

Paris, 22 December 2017 – Following a request by FIDH and the LDH, with the support of the Cairo Institute for Human Rights Studies (CIHRS), that an investigation be opened into the sale of surveillance equipment by a French company to Egypt, the Crimes Against Humanity Division of the Paris Prosecutor’s office has just opened a formal judicial investigation. By shedding light on the contract concluded between the authoritarian Al Sissi regime and Nexa Technologies (ex Amesys), and its consequences, the investigation could lead to charges being brought for complicity to torture and enforced disappearances. A step which sends a powerful signal for surveillance and weapons companies, as well as for the French authorities.

On 9 November 2017, FIDH and the LDH, with the support of CIHRS, an FIDH member organisation, filed a complaint relating to the potential role – via the sale of surveillance technology – of the French company Amesys (renamed Nexa Technologies) in widespread oppression under the Al Sissi regime in Egypt. This complaint came on the heels of revelations published on 5 July 2017 by Télérama journalist Olivier Tesquet, and an initial complaint filed in 2011 by FIDH and the LDH relating to the sale of surveillance equipment by Amesys to Mohammed Gaddafi’s Libya.

By opening a judicial investigation, the Paris Prosecutor acknowledges the gravity of the allegations, giving Egyptian victims the opportunity to become civil parties to the case and testify in France as well as enabling FIDH and the LDH to become civil parties. In 2013, Libyan victims of the Gaddafi regime, assisted by FIDH and the LDH, came to testify before the French investigative judges in the first Amesys case. Since May 2017, the company has been placed under the status of “assisted witness” (témoin assisté) for complicity to acts of torture committed in Libya between 2007 and 2011.

‘Despite the existence of the Libya investigation, the sale of surveillance equipment allowing authoritarian regimes to strengthen their oppressive arsenal has continued casually and cynically as if nothing had happened. Business as usual! With the complicity of public bodies responsible for overseeing and monitoring exports of dual-use goods, who in reality do not seem to scrutinise the harmful consequences and human rights violations of these sales’, deplored Michel Tubiana, Lawyer and Honorary President of the LDH.

This new investigation should shed light on the nature of the contract signed between Nexa Technologies and the Al Sissi regime, its execution and its consequences for Egyptian human rights defenders and civil society activists. Today, the country counts tens of thousands of political prisoners in detention, who are habitually exposed to torture, inhumane detention conditions and unfair trials.

‘Currently, there are more than 40,000 peaceful political prisoners in detention in Egypt. The protestors who breathed life into hopes of freedom at Tahir Square are wasting away in prison! And yet, companies profit while people’s aspirations for a better life are trampled by the regime”, regretted bitterly Bahey Eldin Hassan, Director of the Cairo Institute for Human Rights Studies.

‘By selling surveillance equipment and arms to Egypt and the Middle East, French companies are making unprecedented levels of sales. What the authorities do not want to see, since they tolerate and even encourage these sales, is that these regimes obviously make use of their purchases! In Egypt, the government uses this equipment to track, imprison and torture opponents who dare to demand more freedom and respect for the rule of law. This deadly and criminal business must stop and justice exists to recall this’, noted Patrick Baudouin, Lawyer and Honorary FIDH President.

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