French armoured vehicles used in Egyptian anti-terrorism operation criticised for human rights violations

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A sherpa militarised vehcile parked up in the street.
Photo: Thesupermat/Wikipedia. CC3.0

French NGO Disclose has uncovered evidence that military-grade armoured vehicles have recently been used by the Egyptian police against civilian protesters by a new anti-terrorism unit. The Sherpa armoured trucks, built by Renault Trucks Defence, were exported from France to Egypt in 2012 and 2016. Despite the Egyptian prime minister claiming the vehicles were for “exclusively military” purposes, the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (SIPRI) database shows that at least 18 of the vehicles sold in 2012 were marked “for police”.

Human rights abuses by the Egyptian police are well documented. According to Disclose, there is evidence of the trucks being used by a new anti-terrorism unit called Unit 888, in an operation in Northern Sinai which began in 2018. A report released by Human Rights Watch released in May 2019 documented some of the crimes committed against civilians in the course of that operation.

According to Disclose French-made Sherpa vehicles were used in the massacre of at least 1,000 protesters in Rabaa and Nahda squares in Cairo in October 2013. EU member states agreed to suspend export licenses to Egypt for equipment that might be used for internal repression, but almost half of all EU member states have defied this declaration, according to Amnesty International.

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