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French President Emmanuel Macron wasn’t afraid to talk about LGBTQ persecution in Chechnya to Russian President Vladimir Putin, back in May. But he said yesterday that he “wouldn’t lecture” Egyptian President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi — currently visiting France — about human rights.
Prior to General El-Sisi’s visit, non-governmental organizations (NGOs) like Reporters Without Borders, Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch and the French group Inter-LGBT had asked Macron to bring up human rights issues with the Egyptian president, denouncing his rule as “the worst crisis in human rights Egypt has faced in decades.”
Since he came to power with a coup in 2013, General El-Sisi has allowed his forces to go after liberals, journalists and LGBTQ people. More than 60 gay men have been arrested following a concert of the Lebanese band Mashrou’ Leila and their openly gay singer Hamed Sinno. More than 60,000 people have reported been jailed for political reasons.
Macron and El-Sissi held a joint press conference yesterday in Paris. When asked if he had raised the issue of human rights with the Egyptian President, Macron said, “I believe in the sovereignty of states, and therefore, just as I don’t accept being lectured on how to govern my country, I don’t lecture others.”
He added, “My deeply held conviction is that it’s in President Sisi’s interest to accompany the defense and consolidation of human rights by the Egyptian state, in the context that only he can be the judge of.”
The Egyptian leader denied the use of torture and reminded the journalist that Egypt’s situation was not the same as in European countries “with its intellectual, cultural, civilization and human advancement.”
According to a Human Rights Watch spokesperson, “This President (Macron) prides himself on being a tireless defender of liberties and rights and today he defended El-Sisi, in spite of his disastrous record when it comes to human rights,” reports the French newspaper Le Monde.
With Vladimir Putin, Macron played another tune
Back in May, Russian President Vladimir Putin came to Paris for a state visit. The campaign of anti-LGBTQ detainment and torture in Chechnya had been revealed just a few weeks prior.
Here’s what the French president said then in a press conference, standing next to Putin:
“I reminded President Putin how important respect of all people, of all minorities, of all opinions in the civil society, was to France. We have discussed what happened to LGBT people Chechnya but also NGOs in Russia. On these issues, I have told very precisely President Putin what France was expecting and we agreed to talk about it on a very regular basis…. I’ll be constantly vigilant on those issues which are about our values.”
Under the previous government (in which Macron served as a minister), France signed several military agreements, including the sale of French Rafale aircrafts to Egypt.
The new French government intends to sell more aircrafts to Egypt during El-Sisi’s visit. This might explain why Macron has suddenly gone softer on human rights.
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