Egypt's Sisi heading to UK for controversial visit

Egypt's Sisi heading to UK for controversial visit
Egypt's president Abd al-Fattah al-Sisi will start a three day state visit to the UK on Wednesday, with large protests expected to dog him throughout his stay in Britain.
4 min read
03 November, 2015
The Stop Sisi campaign has rallied against the state visit [Stop Sisi]
Egyptian President Abd al-Fattah al-Sisi is set to arrive in the UK on Wednesday, where he will meet with British Prime Minister David Cameron as protesters in London gear up to demonstrate against Sisi's arrival.

Sisi will also meet with Secretary of State for Defence Michael Fallon to discuss security cooperation between the two countries as well as with members of the British business community and the president of the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development, according to a statement from the Egyptian State Information Service.


We have no political affiliations. We have one aim: to stop Sisi

- Sameh Shafi, Stop Sisi campaign

"The President will meet Prime Minister David Cameron for talks on boosting relations in the political, economic and security domains besides the latest regional developments, topped by the terror threat," read the statement.

It added: "The visit will also witness signing of two memos of understanding in security and higher education cooperation."

Energy, transport and infrastructure projects relevant to the big national projects will also be on the agenda of the talks will also be on the agenda, according to the Egyptian Presidency.

Amnesty International UK on Tuesday called on David Cameron to raise Egypt's poor human rights record with Sisi.

Amnesty said in statement that since the ousting of President Mohamed Morsi in July 2013, tens of thousands of people in Egypt have been detained, charged or tried in a sweeping crackdown on dissent that has targeted alleged supporters of the banned Muslim Brotherhood group, as well as journalists, human rights activists and other perceived government opponents.

Grossly unfair mass trials have seen courts hand down death sentences or long prison sentences against hundreds of people, the rights group said.

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Those detained in the crackdown include: 

Mahmoud Mohamed Ahmed Hussein, a 19-year-old student has been detained since his arrest in January 2014 for wearing a t-shirt with a “Nation Without Torture” logo following a protest.

His family have told Amnesty that security forces had tortured and ill-treated him in detention, including by subjecting him to electric shocks and beatings.

Student Israa Al-Taweel, 23, who is disabled, was arrested by security forces on 1 June. She had no chance to contact a lawyer or her family and they spent 15 days desperately looking for her.

She faces accusations of “belonging to a banned group” and “broadcasting false news”.

Al-Taweel has not received adequate medical treatment in detention for an injury sustained in a protest in January 2014 that left her unable to walk without regular and intensive physiotherapy.  

UK officials should also urge Egypt to repeal laws introduced in the name of restoring “stability and security”, but which in practice have eroded the rule of law in Egypt and facilitated gross human rights violations.

These include the 2013 Protest Law, which gives security forces sweeping powers to disperse demonstrations not approved by the authorities, as well as the August 2015Counter-terrorism Law, which gives the president emergency-style powers and erodes fair trial guarantees.

The deaths of hundreds of protesters and others since July 2013 at the hands of the Egyptian security forces should also be an issue of deepest concern to UK officials.

Amnesty has documented a repeated pattern of excessive and unnecessary force by Egypt’s security forces. In the worst incident, on 14 August 2013, security forces killed hundreds of protesters at Cairo’s Rabaa al-Adawiya Square.

Egypt does face a security threat, and the authorities have claimed that hundreds of members of the security forces have died in attacks by armed groups, with judicial officials also targeted.

However, the Egyptian authorities have failed to put in place any meaningful safeguards on the use of force by security forces, while official investigations into political violence have whitewashed over their role. 

UK arms sales

In 2013, the scale of the violence in Egypt prompted EU foreign ministers to suspend export licences to Egypt for any equipment which might be used for “internal repression”.

Given various arms deals with the Egyptian authorities agreed by the UK earlier this year - consisting of components for military vehicles - Amnesty says the UK authorities must ensure that they do not transfer arms or equipment that may be used by the Egyptian authorities to commit or facilitate serious human rights violations. 

Activists have rallied against the apparent further improvement in diplomatic relations between the UK government and Egypt.

The Stop Sisi campaign have called for a protest outside 10 Downing Street on Wednesday at 5pm and set up a website to raise awareness within the UK about human rights abuses in Egypt.

"We have no political affiliations - we have one aim: to stop Sisi", Sameh Shafi, a co-ordinator for the campaign told al-Araby al-Jadeed.

"He's done nothing but divide and destroy the country. The founding basis of the campaign is to stop him," Shafi added, citing reports of human rights abuses by international groups.

Last week, The Guardian published an open letter urging the government to cancel the upcoming visit.

The signatories include prominent MPs, Diane Abbot, Caroline Lucas and John McDonnel, as well as academics, journalists and activists.

The Egyptian president wrapped up a short tour of Asia last week, in which he visited the UAE, India and Bahrain.