Germany closes the door to human rights in Egypt

Germany closes the door to human rights in Egypt
Europe is cashing in on Cairo's crackdown on freedom, with Sisi's visit to Berlin marking another blow against human rights activists in Egypt, says Sibylle Bandler.
3 min read
23 Jun, 2015
Sisi is becoming accepted by European nations as a legitimate ruler of Egypt [Getty]
With hindsight it is hard to fathom how the German government has managed to make such a mess of its Middle East policy in just a few weeks.

By welcoming in Egypt's military ruler, Abdel Fattah al-Sisi, and detaining one of the Arab world's most prominent journalists upon Cairo's request, Germany might have harmed its standing in the region for years to come.

Not a single concession was won when Berlin rolled out the red carpet for Sisi during an official state visit at the start of June.

Any concerns Berlin might have expressed regarding Egypt's ongoing human rights abuses and arbitrary justice system were quickly buried, in return for a deal worth billions of euros for German industrial giant Siemens AG.
The arrest - and subsequent release - of al-Jazeera journalist Ahmed Mansour in Berlin over the past few days, in response to an Egyptian extradition request, spells yet another blatant misstep by the German government.
It is also the latest example of how Europe's old democracies, with their claims of high moral values and the rule of law, have little will to counter Cairo's capricious leader.
Initial reports claimed that Mansour was being held by German authorities based on an international arrest warrant.

But there is no such thing as an international arrest warrant - Interpol merely provides notices of national arrest warrants or extradition requests. Whether states act on these requests is up to them.

Meanwhile, the duty to extradite a person only exists if two countries have signed a bilateral treaty, but again no such treaty exists between Germany and Egypt.

What's more, according to Zeit Online, the German Federal Office of Criminal Investigation did not make an independent decision to detain Mansour based on Egypt's extradition request. Instead, it asked the German foreign ministry and the ministry of justice to assess it. It was only after the ministries' reviews that Mansour was held in Berlin.
     Mansour's arrest spells yet another blatant misstep by the German government.

As such, the decision to detain the prominent journalist was made on purely political grounds.
Sisi's visit and Mansour's detention will make it hard for Angela Merkel's government to dispel the impression that Germany is siding with a dictator.

Its claim that "maintaining dialogue" with Sisi is crucial for stability in the Middle East is at best misguided and at worst disingenuous. A country the size of Egypt cannot be governed in the long run against the will of its largest ideological current.
Yet Germany is not alone in putting money before morals in its dealings with Egypt.

France, the supposed cradle of human and civil rights, kicked off the trend with striking a $5.6 billion weapons deal with Cairo, in return for a visit by the Egyptian president to Paris in November last year.
One day after Cairo confirmed the death sentence of the deposed democratically elected president, Mohammad Morsi, British Prime Minister David Cameron invited Sisi to London "for talks".
Europe's leading nations seem mostly concerned with making sure they don't go empty-handed when the current ruler of the Nile goes shopping, courtesy of his Gulf donors.
It is of little surprise then that the credibility of Europe's democracies is waning, both at home and abroad.

What good are highfalutin' proclamations on human rights if leaders turn deaf and blind the moment a lucrative deal is on the table?

Sibylle Bandler is a German journalist and researcher.

Opinions expressed in this article remain those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of al-Araby al-Jadeed, its editorial board or staff.