The German Federal Government is currently negotiating with Egyptian authorities on relaunching police training programs in order to support Egyptian security forces in fighting terrorism and “illegal migration”. Despite the ongoing controversy about Egypt’s latest human rights record, Berlin restarted the talks with Egyptian officials on an agreement that were put on hold last year due to the political violence in Egypt.
According to Berlin’s response to a small inquiry by the parliamentary group of the Left Party in the German parliament, the Bundestag, the government confirmed the talks with Egyptian authorities on training programs for the Egyptian police forces by German security agencies. Berlin remains silent on the state of the talks. The negotiations have not ended yet, the German government stated in its response in early November.
Small inquiries in the Bundestag are a parliamentary mechanism frequently used by opposition parties to question the government to obtain informations about executive actions. These inquiries are often linked to issues related to weapons and arms export deals of German companies in favour of authoritarian regimes in Africa and Asia that are supported by the German government. The small inquiries provide opposition parties in the Bundestag as well as the public with informations on executive actions taken by the government. These inquiries are a reliable tool to investigate what the government is actually doing.
The subject of the planned deal between Egypt and Germany is the “improvement of cooperation in combating, preventing and detecting organized and serious crimes, as well as terrorism and in the field of technical assistance during disasters or serious accidents.“ Due to the “unstable” political environment in Egypt the talks were put on hold, however, it appears they have been resumed recently. In its response to the inquiry led by the Left Party MP Andrej Hunko the government highlighted that no „support in the police sector“ is currently taking place in Egypt. Nonetheless, Berlin confirmed the planning „of training in the field of combating certificate crime and training accompanying equipment aid“ by the German Federal Police. Due to recent attempts by Egyptian authorities to silence the civil society and the crackdown against dissidents, the time for resuming the talks is questionable. Hunko called the government to halt the negotiations with Egypt and emphasized that a German company already provided spy software to Egypt and the German government organized training sessions for Egyptian security forces which could have been easily abused by authorities for breeching human rights.
In June 2013, the Federal Criminal Police Office (BKA) has already been on an information gathering trip to Egypt for discussions with representatives of the military intelligence and the Central Security Forces, the very institutions accused of being responsible for human rights violations in recent times. A major goal for the German government is to train Egyptian security in combatting “illegal migration” in order to reduce the influx of migrants to Europe. Furthermore, the BKA organized workshops and trainings sessions for Egyptian State Security as well as security and intelligence authorities in Jordan, Algeria, Morocco, Lebanon and other countries in the region to train them in the evaluation of data collected through Internet surveillance. It remains unclear to what extent the knowledge mediated to Egypt’s security apparatus in 2010 were diverted to Internet surveillance by Egypt’s authorities for the prosecution of dissidents. Therefore, Berlin will only respond when evidence of the „abuse of mediated knowledge“ exists, according to the government’s response to the recent inquiry.
„Conducting workshops on police evaluation of results of internet surveillance contributes in such a case to make repression against dissidents even more effective,“ said the German news website netzpolitik.org. In fact, Egypt’s government is planning a systematic mass surveillance program of Facebook, Twitter, YouTube and other social networks and has announced the purchase of new sophisticated spy software. In addition to calling for “illegal” strikes and demonstrations, Egypt’s Ministry of Interior (MOI) will prosecute the defamation of religion and „immoral behavior“. Given the recent human rights violations of Egyptian security forces as well as the announced expansion of Internet monitoring by the MOI, further abuses by the authorities are “inevitable”, the human rights watchdog Amnesty International stated in June 2014.
The large scale internet surveillance programs run by US intelligence service National Security Agency (NSA) were recently fiercely blamed by German media outlets and the public, although the German spy software industry is by now one of the most advanced producers of spy ware in the world. Furthermore, Germany’s export regulations for this technology are not effective and the industry exports such products to regimes accused of human rights violations on a large scale level, according to Reporters without Borders and another small inquiry by the Green Party in the Bundestag. In the past ten years German authorities gave green light for the export of surveillance technology to 25 states, including Qatar, Kuwait, Saudi-Arabia, Mexico and Russia. Moreover, these companies repeatedly exported spy ware without permission. This industry is now busy trying to gain access to the Egyptian market. Shortly after the ouster of former president Hosni Mubarak in 2011, protesters stormed the State Security headquarter in Cairo’s Nasr City district and found an offer for surveillance software by the British-German company Gamma International Gmbh. According to media reports the spy ware offered to Egypt’s State Security Service is worth 3 Million LE and Gamma provided a beta version for tests. The company is affiliated to the British Gamma Group and was busy exporting its products to countries like Bahrain. Gamma competed in a call for bids by Egypt’s MOI last summer, but lost the race against See Egypt, an affiliated company of the US-based Blue coat.
© Sofian Philip Naceur 2014