Sinai for Human Rights: Disclose leaks prove military involvement in systematic violations

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Sinai for Human Rights has issued a statement confirming that the leaked French military documents, which revealed the involvement of the Egyptian army in the killing of hundreds of civilians in the Western Desert since 2016, targeted civilian smugglers and not terrorists. All of this is additional evidence that the Egyptian Army is involved in the systematic violations and murder of civilians in violation of International Humanitarian Law.

According to the foundation, there is a match between the systematic deadly air strikes carried out in the Western Desert revealed by the documents and the approach recorded in Sinai previously.  Sinai Foundation also documented the death of 30 civilians and the injury of 22 others in five Egyptian military air strikes in North Sinai between 2019 and 2020 with the claim of fighting terrorist organisations. These attacks were not limited to a certain geographical area, but they included Sheikh Zuwayed, Al-Arish, Bir Al-Abd, and Al-Hassana. In each of these incidents, no civilian victims fell as collateral during the attack on opposing militant targets. The strikes were most likely intentionally against civilian targets directly in the absence of armed militants in the area. Those five incidents were some of what was recorded of the destruction of houses and buildings and the killing of complete families in many such illegal operations since the escalation of the war in North Sinai in late 2013.

Ahmed Salem, the director of Sinai Foundation for Human Rights, said that the Disclose leaks provide clear evidence of the French violations in Egypt. It is no longer about political support or the weapons trade. These leaks also present shocking, albeit expected, additional proof of the Egyptian military’s habitual murder of civilians with no consequences, which has been happening in Sinai since 2013. The report also mentioned that the French officers who worked in the mission have reached a complete conviction that Egyptians are not targeting terrorist groups. Instead, they used French technology to implement lethal and direct air strikes without building on any evidence that confirms the involvement of the targeted people in terrorist acts. Also, they ignored any warning signals and didn’t even attempt to arrest the smugglers.

Sinai Foundation indicated that the conditions in North Sinai match many other border areas in western Egypt in terms of high unemployment rates and chronic marginalisation from the central authority in Cairo. All of this has led many young people in border areas to work in the smuggling of goods starting from cigarettes and foodstuff to drugs and arms.   It should be mentioned that the Disclose report hasn’t mentioned an end date for the operation, which means most likely it is continuing and that it has caused the deaths of hundreds of civilians.