FRENCH SECRET MILITARY OPERATION IN EGYPT: TWO AMERICAN NGOS SEEK JUSTICE IN FRANCE AND AT THE UN FOR CRIMES AGAINST HUMANITY AND COMPLICITY AND HUMAN RIGHTS VIOLATIONS
September 12th 2022 – Today, following the revelations in November 2021 by the investigative media Disclose on the Franco-Egyptian military operation Sirli, the American NGOs Egyptians Abroad for Democracy and CODEPINK have submitted:
- a complaint against X – under French law, X is noted in a complaint to indicate that the prosecutor is left responsible for naming the person charged – for crimes against humanity, complicity and torture with the Crimes against Humanity, War Crimes Unit of the National Anti-Terrorist Prosecutor's Office (PNAT)
- a Confidential Communication to the UN Special Rapporteur for Arbitrary Executions, the UN Special Rapporteur for Torture and the UN Special Rapporteur for the protection of human rights while countering terrorism.
The two legal submissions were submitted on behalf of Egyptians Abroad for Democracy and CODEPINK by counsel for the NGOs, Haydee Dijkstal (Barrister, 33 Bedford Row, London) and Louise Dumas (French Lawyer, Avocate à la Cour, Paris). The legal challenges have received the support of an alliance of organisations and individuals, including Egypt's Hope.
Operation Sirli, which began in February 2016, is the result of a confidential anti-terrorism cooperation agreement between the French government and the Egyptian authorities. In November 2021, Disclose revealed the existence of this aerial surveillance operation on the Egyptian-Libyan border and exposed France’s knowledge that Operation Sirli was actually and mostly being used by Egypt to extrajudicially target and kill civilians involved in contraband activities and not terrorism. The geolocation data collected by France made possible the summary bombardment by the Egyptian forces of hundreds of vehicles, thus killing and injuring several hundred civilians, without any other form of trial or more advanced verifications.
Information and evidence indicate that in April 2016 and on several occasions in 2016, 2017, 2018 and 2019, the French operators alerted their superiors to mission Sirli's lack of interest in the fight against terrorism and the risks of French involvement in what constitute crimes against humanity. Despite these warnings, Operation Sirli was maintained.
France: crimes against humanity, complicity and torture
The complaint before France’s National Anti-Terrorist Prosecutor was submitted on behalf of NGOs Egyptians Abroad for Democracy and CODEPINK, and filed against X for crimes against humanity and crimes of torture, committed by Egyptian officials and complicity in crimes against humanity, committed by French officials, whose identities will have to be determined.
Louise Dumas stated further that “It is hoped that the prosecutor will seize this opportunity to put an end to impunity for crimes committed by the Egyptian regime, including torture, with the complicity of French players, all within the opaque framework of arms contracts. Confidential defense branding cannot be systematically used as an excuse for impunity.”
UN Special Rapporteurs
The Confidential Communication to three UN Special Rapporteurs submits that France carries responsibility due to its assistance of providing intelligence which allowed Egypt to conduct targeted attacks. These attacks violated fundamental human rights of the civilians impacted, including the right against torture and the right to a fair trial.
Haydee Dijkstal stated that: “The UN submission allows for the impact and harm suffered by the direct victims killed and injured by the targeted attacks carried out by Egypt against civilians to be considered by the UN Special Rapporteurs, while also acknowledging and addressing the harm to the families who themselves suffered as indirect victims who have been denied the right to a family life, to a remedy and to the truth.”
Mohamed Ismail, Director of Egyptians Abroad for Democracy, stated that: “By bringing this suit, Egyptians Abroad for Democracy continues its mission to fight the impunity and lawlessness of the Sisi regime. There was no one to hear the cries of the innocents as they died. We’re doing this for people that no one has ever heard.”
Medea Benjamin, cofounder of the peace group CODEPINK, stated: “CODEPINK believes there must be accountability for the serious crimes and human rights violations committed against countless civilians by the Egyptian government, with France’s knowledge and support. We hope these legal challenges will create momentum towards transparent justice for all the victims and their families.”
Statements of support
Ghada Najibe, a cofounder of Egypt’s Hope which have indicated support for the legal action, stated that: “Thousands of innocent victims have been killed even though their killers knew that in the worst case, they were just smuggling food and cigarettes. And as in Sinai or with political opponents, they’ve used the same lie: the fight against terrorism.”
Dr. Seif El-Din Abdel-Fattah, an Egyptian citizen and professor of political science at Cairo University, deplores that “In any civilized country, the most important function of the State is to protect its citizens and residents but Sisi’s regime has become the biggest threat for Egyptians. The Egyptian regime and those who assisted or supported it in perpetrating these crimes will not escape justice, no matter how long it takes.”