The French human rights defender, Alban de Rochbrunn, said that Egypt is on the threshold of “chaos.” Because of the practices of the head of the coup, Abdel Fattah El-Sisi, who said that he is not a reliable partner, stressing that the Egyptian regime is far from stable in light of the mass repression that is taking place, as well as that the economic and social situation is much worse than it was in 2011.
Rochbrunn confirmed, in an exclusive interview with “Arab Guest 21”, that “France and the European Union bear a great responsibility for human rights violations in Egypt. They are responsible through their negative stance towards the current situation, while they were able to respond to the successive waves of repression of the Sisi regime, but they refused.” About that. “
And the French human rights defender stressed that “the current situation can last for a longer period, and it is imperative that the European Union, France, Germany, Italy and the United States reconsider their position towards Sisi.”
The following is the transcript of the interview with “Arab Guest 21”:
What is your vision of the human rights situation in Egypt?
Egypt has become a totalitarian state, the human rights situation in it is disastrous, and the people must realize the seriousness of that. Egypt is ruled by an unelected military regime, and the 2018 elections were a parody, with a complete absence of accountability to the Egyptians, and there are no real public discussions at all, and this means that all your negative words and actions towards Egypt or the government or indicating that Sisi and the army want to tighten their grip on The country could turn against you in the most horrific way, as Parliament continually extends the Emergency Law, until the president and the military wield more repressive, renewed influence.
Journalists, lawyers, human rights activists, leftists, liberals, the Muslim Brotherhood, and children, all are targeted in Egypt today; When medical staff facing the Covid-19 pandemic dared to speak and complain about the lack of equipment, they were arrested.
Today, there are more than 60,000 people detained for political reasons in horrific conditions, including teenagers, patients, and children, and NGOs have well documented all these abuses, whether the practice of torture and the abuse of pretrial detention that extends for long periods.
Unfortunately, this only covers a small portion of the human rights violations that have been committed in Egypt over the past years. There is a lot to say about the imposition of power by force and lack of justice for the victims.
Why did you announce your support for the “release” campaign demanding the release of political detainees in Egyptian prisons?
Since 2013, more than 1,200 prisoners have died in custody, among them President Morsi, who has been held in solitary confinement for more than 6 years and forced to sleep on the floor, but this also includes men and women from among the common people subjected to inhuman conditions of detention.
A few days ago, Amnesty International issued a new report describing the situation of prisoners who were deprived of everything the natural person needs to live even during the Corona pandemic, as the cells were overcrowded, with only one square meter of space allocated to each prisoner. I ask you to take a moment and imagine what it means to live in a square meter for years.
The detainees suffer from poor nutrition, lack of clean air and light, and cramped cells. They are also denied adequate health care. People must understand that the detainees’ living conditions make them vulnerable to serious and completely devastating health problems. Among the prisoners there are those who are most at risk due to their age and deteriorating health, what is the point of keeping them incarcerated ?, and what is the significance of keeping a 62-year-old human rights defender who suffers from blood pressure and severe kidney failure in detention on charges of treason for more than two years.
There are more than 7,000 prisoners over the age of 60, and 15,000 suffering from a serious illness, and they pose no security threat at all if they are released. Sisi can easily demonstrate his human sense and goodwill to the world by doing so if he wanted to.
How do you see the French President Emmanuel Macron awarding his Egyptian counterpart Abdel Fattah Al-Sisi the Legion of Honor?
Honoring Sisi by awarding him the Legion of Honor is a disgraceful and needless insult on the part of President Macron. Moreover, the honoring ceremony was held for him in secret, and the French media learned about the medal through the official website of the Egyptian Presidency, as President Macron knew that the matter would not go unnoticed, and he is trying to hide it. This is really shameful, and I want to pay my respects to the Italian writer and thinker, Corrado Ogias, who reinstated the Legion of Honor in a protest.
What are the reasons for French support for Sisi? And how long will this support last?
The French government has chosen to believe or at least pretend to believe Sisi’s claims about stability and fighting terrorism, even though it is a clear lie that is not about stability, but rather about control, power and greed. France wants to sell arms, and Sisi and his partners have bought weapons for billions, and this is enough for the French government to close its eyes to the human rights situation, even though that is a grave mistake.
Of course, the distinguished relationship with Egypt also comes within the scope of the largest strategic options in the region, as countries are not always linked to the system itself directly, but regardless of that, I think that the matter is not only related to weapons or major industrial businesses. For decades, France has become accustomed to the “strongman claims” used by Mubarak and Zine El Abidine Ben Ali in Tunisia, and all the variants of this narrative including all the alleged threats posed by political Islam. During these years, France did not even try to find out more about the opponents and followers of these regimes, it simply did not recognize them.
Today, France acts as if the 2011-2013 period brought freedom, and Sisi was just a successor to Mubarak, but France failed to realize that Egypt is indeed on the threshold of chaos, and that the Sisi regime is not a reliable partner, that it is not stable at all, and that despite the failure It is clear to the Arab Spring that the aspirations for democracy did not disappear at all. Rather, this was just the beginning of a long process that would take years.
I know that many French academics have tried to prove this to the French government and tell it that the argument for stability is nothing but a flimsy and superficial argument, but it is clear that they have not found their ears. I also know that many French diplomats are very frustrated by the decisions taken in recent years.
Finally, it seems to me that the issues of human rights and the rule of law are not very common at the present time in the French public opinion, and I believe that with regard to foreign affairs the argument for stability is in fact firmly entrenched in public opinion and in France as well.
Do France and Europe bear part of the responsibility for human rights violations in Egypt?
Both France and the European Union bear heavy responsibility for human rights violations in Egypt. First, they are responsible, through their negative attitude towards the status quo, as they are strategic partners on many occasions. France and the European Union could have responded to the successive waves of repression of the regime, but they refrained from doing so.
Given the extent to which Egypt needs the European Union and European countries, they can use methods of pressure on the regime to stop this repression or at least to reduce its severity, but they chose to be negative, and this silence makes them complicit with the system despite the fact that the European Union Parliament did a good job in adopting it. Difficult decisions. However, the European Union’s executive side failed to muster the political will to change the situation despite what they want us to believe.
Despite what the European Union continues to say to human rights defenders, it will not be able to effect change by whispering in opposition terms in the scenes of meetings with their Egyptian counterparts, while it is still agreeing to conclude partnership deals, loans and grants without setting conditions requiring tangible reforms at the level of human rights. And also at the democratic level, but more importantly, by selling weapons to Sisi that he used against Egyptian civilians, whether in the Sinai, in the demonstration squares, or as surveillance tools against the opposition, the Europeans and the French have contributed to the continuation of this repression, they have allowed it to happen.
France has become a supporter of repression in Egypt, as Renault trucks and armed vehicles have been used against peaceful protesters in Egypt, and French companies have provided the regime with the technologies to spy on its own citizens, arresting human rights defenders, journalists, lawyers, gays, writers, etc.
Will the human rights situation worsen further in the coming period, or not?
I believe that the change in the American administration will provide relief to the human rights situation in Egypt. During his election campaign, Joe Biden strongly criticized Sisi’s dictatorship, and we can only hope that he and the new Secretary of State, Anthony Blinken, stick to their promises, as Biden previously said: “There will be no blank check for Trump’s favorite dictator,” which may mean that the United States will stipulate Egypt must finally have real reforms on the level of human rights, and I hope they affect the aspect of democracy promotion as well. I also hope that many political prisoners will be released through this influence, but human rights are not limited to the safety of political prisoners.
Of course, any progress in this respect would be welcome, except that there should not be any political prisoners in the first place. To fight corruption, the independence of the judiciary, freedom of expression and democracy, all of which fall under the umbrella of human rights, must be part of the power game.
What is the danger of the continued deterioration of human rights conditions to stability in Egypt?
This question is very important. I believe that the moral imperative that human beings have towards one another would suffice to create a revolutionary human rights situation. Knowing that French-made armored vehicles have been used against peaceful demonstrations. It should suffice to ban arms exports to Egypt, and the fact that the first and only democratically elected president of a country has died of medical negligence after years of solitary confinement should suffice not to award that country’s president (Sisi) the Legion of Honor.
The fact that children and their mothers and brothers have been forcibly disappeared, detained with adults, and subjected to torture on a routine basis must suffice, as we do our best to put an end to it.
But the usual response that human rights activists receive is that Egypt is a strategic partner in the region and in the fight against terrorism, or that the strategic interests of the European Union and other countries are too great to risk democracy there, and I see this strategy as very superficial and reckless towards the European population.
The Sisi regime is far from stable under mass repression, and the economic and social situation is much worse than it was in 2011. The poverty rate has risen by more than 20%, debts have tripled, the situation in the private sector is bleak, while the military controls most of the economy, and it does not do so well precisely because it is driven by corruption.
But what differs from 2011 is Sisi’s destruction of political forces. It destroyed the political and social forces that were able to turn the revolution into a constructive event. And so I think that Egypt is actually on the threshold of chaos.
Repression fuels extremism, and indeed, some prison cells have turned into recruitment centers for ISIS, and in Sinai, civilians are subjected to constant attacks and harassment by censors, militias, and the army without any perspective of justice, and the main issues facing the country, such as water scarcity, are still marginalized without Processing.
While Egypt has a population of 100 million, many of them may be left with no choice but to flee if things go wrong. Then, they will not go to Libya or Israel, because they will go to Europe.
I don’t see that the current situation can last any longer. Hence, it is imperative that the European Union, France, Germany, Italy and the United States reconsider their stance towards the Egyptian regime.