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Czech handguns for the Egyptian police – a bad joke?

Czech arms factory plans to export 29,000 CZ-75 handguns to the Egyptian police to conclude a vast order order from last year when it supplied 50,000 of these handguns before the start of the August massacres. Another Czech firm, Sellier & Bellot, aims to sell 10 million pieces of 9mm ammunition to Egypt. As usual in this business, even now the arguments are all about safety, even the safety of Czech tourists [1]. Touching. There are several reasons, however, why the Czech authorities should come back to their senses and immediately freeze the entire export deal.

 

European standpoint

The first reason why the supply of Czech weapons to Egypt is not a good idea is the standpoint of the European Union. The EU's patience finally wore out in the wake of the Cairo massacres on August 14, 2013 resulting in the deaths of hundreds. It took a decision to suspend all arms exports to Egypt based on the Council conclusions on Egypt dated August 21, 2013 which state in article 8 that:

 “Member States also agreed to suspend export licenses to Egypt of any equipment which might be used for internal repression(…).” [2]

One must not graduate from security studies to understand that the Czech handguns with munition can be very easily used for “internal repression.”

It is worth noting that the renowned Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (SIPRI) views these conclusions as an arms embargo and lists it in its arms embargoes database as still in place [3].

Even if the “embargo” argument could be considered as insufficient by some, what about the Council Common Position 2008/944/CFSP used in a similar spirit to set the rules for trade in arms and other military technology for EU member states? The second Criterion for granting export licences states that the member countries:

 “deny an export licence if there is a clear risk that the military technology or equipment to be exported might be used for internal repression;” [4].

Fairy tale about the good policemen

The second reason for suspending the export deal is related to the above-said “embargo” and the Council Common Position – the risk that the Czech handguns could be used for internal repression or other gross violation of human rights in Egypt is way too high. It was the Egyptian policemen who intervened on August 14 against the demonstrators killing several hundreds of them. As we will see further, the persons bearing responsibility for this massacre still serve in the police ranks.

It must be added that tens of policemen died during the August events as well – some of the protesters were armed and when the police attempted to clear the Muslim Brotherhood's camp they responded by shooting. Nonetheless, the policemen used disproportionate force. When using live ammunition, they did not distinguish between armed and unarmed protesters, allow the injured to seek help or let others safely leave the site of the sit-in. According to Human Rights Watch, the intervention eventually led to the largest case of mass killing in Egypt's modern history [5].

In this context the obscuring of the Czech firearms lobby appears incredibly cynical. Its representatives shrugged off the risk of handguns misuse by declaring that in August 2013 the protesters were killed by “rifles and submachine guns,” not by handguns. Nowhere on TV, as they say, were there scenes of policemen shooting on people using handguns [6]. The arms dealers thus admit that they are well aware that the protesters were killed by the Egyptian policemen. They simultaneously acknowledge that they do not consider their further arming as questionable. In reality this is an issue and it does not matter whether they were shooting into the crowd by submachine guns or handguns – the policemen responsible for hundreds of deaths should not be given even a single scrapped aluminium mess tin (although as it is obvious from this brutal video from 2011, [7] the Egyptian police make do with some bars and numerical superiority for “internal repression”). As if the arms dealers forgot that “internal repression” does not only take the form of protest dispersals by live ammunition but also in the seclusion of investigation rooms at police stations or during house searches of politically inconvenient persons. All this with a Czech handgun in the holster.

One could object that since the imposition of the embargo the Egyptian police have changed and that the policemen and their superiors responsible for the massacre have been discharged or even imprisoned. Nothing suggests that however. According to the Human Rights Watch, the August 2013 events have not been duly investigated and nobody has been held accountable [8]. Amnesty International says that just a handful of lower-rank officers have been punished by suspension or one-year prison sentence. The majority of those charged were released due to missing evidence and not one high-ranking officer has been sentenced [9]. As if those several hundred people shot themselves dead.

The police moreover continues taking strong action in suppressing the protests following August 2013. The new law limits the right to assemble even further and gives the police a freer hand in dealing with demonstrations. [10].

Egypt – the land of the Pharaohs and repressions

Let us look at one more reason why this arms supply ought to be revoked. It is the poor condition of human rights in the country. After Mursi was toppled, Egypt has been governed by a military junta, political opposition has been persecuted and in December 2013, the entire Muslim Brotherhood was branded a terrorist organization and banned. Up to a life sentence can be imposed for a membership in the Brotherhood or participating in a demonstration supporting the deposed president Mursi. Attacks on human rights NGOs also multiply as they are accused of banding up with foreign interests [11]. One can also hardly speak about press freedom. This can be well illustrated by the four jailed journalists of the English mutation of Al Jazeera TV channel who face accusations of belonging to a “terrorist group.” The EU, UN or the White House have all called for their release [12].

According to a summary report of Amnesty International, during the past several months (after the toppling of Mursi), Egypt has witnessed so much state-inflicted violence and attacks on human rights as never before.

It follows out from the above that after the imposition of embargo by the European Union not only did the situation in Egypt improve but it has further deteriorated in the sphere of human rights. There are no grounds for renewing the supply of arms into this country. By allowing the arms export to Egypt, the Czech Republic legitimises one of the most authoritarian regimes the world over. As if it was saying to the military junta: “We do not care that you use live ammunition against protesters, persecute opposition or threaten journalists with military courts. You are fine boys. Just please protect our tourists.”

One remark to conclude. One myth must be refuted – safety or stability in Egypt or anywhere else in the world are not among the interests of the Czech arms dealers. It ensues from the nature of their enterprise. Moreover, as stock holding companies, they have one objective only, namely to satisfy their stock holders. Unrest around the globe only swells their profits and therefore they do not mind arming mutual enemies. If we look at the last ten years of arms exports to Egypt, we can see that the Czech arms dealers have been supplying grandiose amounts of weapons to Mubarak, Mursi as well as the current military junta [13]. The present crisis in the Sinai peninsula only serves as another welcome pretext for defending their business.

If the issue of arms trade caught your interest and you would like to know more, visit our new website

 

Peter Tkáč

coordinator of armstrade watch group “Arms or human rights?”

Twitter: @PetoTkac

 

Originaly published on idnes.blog.cz

Translation: Dan Hrabina

Notes:

[1] e15.cz [czech]

[2] Council conclusions on Egypt from August 21, 2013

[3] SIPRI arms embargoes database

[4] Council Common Position 2008/944/CFSP

[5] Human Rights Watch – Egypt Security Forces Used Excessive Lethal Force 

[6] TV news, Czech TV from February 25, 2014

[7] Youtube

[8] Human Rights Watch – Egypt: No Acknowledgment or Justice for Mass Protester Killings 

[9] Amnesty International — Egypt three years on, wide scale repression continues unabated 

[10] ibid 8

[11] ibid 8

[12] Al Jazeera – Al Jazeera calls for global support of staff 

[13] Graphical values for 2013 are still not available.

 

Picture: TTC Press Images (flickr) Creative Commons licence BY-SA 2.0

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