The London-based Amnesty International group urged Cameron to raise human rights concerns with Egypt's Abdel-Fattah el-Sissi who arrived in London yesterday for talks with British Prime Minister David Cameron. El-Sissi has left Cairo for London, where he will hold talks with Cameron on security cooperation today.
"President el-Sissi's arrival in the U.K. is another key test of whether David Cameron is prepared to do more than roll out red carpets for authoritarian leaders," said Amnesty U.K. director Kate Allen. "There have been horrifying mass death sentences since President el-Sissi came to power - some after grossly unfair trials - and thousands have been detained in an attempt to quash all opposition."
After longtime president Hosni Mubarak was ousted in 2011, Muhammed Morsi was voted in as Egypt's first democratically elected president but he was deposed in 2013 by then army chief el-Sissi after mass street protests. El-Sissi was elected to succeed him in 2014 after brutally crushing all forms of opposition - the Muslim Brotherhood as well as secularists and leftists.
Scores of journalists, human rights activists and members of the opposition have been imprisoned or sentenced to death. However, el-Sissi refuses the accusations. "There is a real roadmap for democracy in Egypt," el-Sissi told BBC television ahead of his visit. "The Egyptian people have been calling for change for four years. It is our utmost wish to meet their demands and work towards a better democratic future. In the past five years, we have been living in a state of revolution. We want stability. We don't want to do this by force or suppression," el-Sissi said. "But Egypt faces monumental problems. We are plagued by terrorism. No one is oppressed in Egypt. But we're living through incredible times." Asked about human rights, he said: "What about the millions of Egyptians who face hardship every day? What about their human rights? What about the millions of young people who want a job and education?"
Campaign groups including the far-left Stop The War Coalition were to stage a rally outside Cameron's Downing Street office yesterday to protest against el-Sissi's visit. Cameron and el-Sissi spoke by telephone on Tuesday, Downing Street said, where they discussed the Russian plane crash in Egypt's Sinai peninsula. "The prime minister said he looked forward to welcoming President el-Sissi to Downing Street on Thursday when they could talk further about the ongoing investigation and security cooperation between both countries," a spokeswoman said.
The Daily Telegraph reported that el-Sissi ahead of his visit called for NATO powers including Britain to help rebuild Libya, beset by violence since an uprising backed by the Western military alliance toppled leader Moammar Gadhafi. "It was a mission that was not completely accomplished," he was quoted as saying. "We need to stop the flow of funds and weapons and foreign fighters to the extremists. All the members of NATO - including Britain - who took part in the mission to overthrow Ghaddafi need to give their help," el-Sissi said.
Thousands of people have been arrested and tortured during el-Sissi's presidency according to reports published by rights groups such as Human Rights Watch. Over 1,400 people have been killed and 16,000 others have been detained in the crackdown since Morsi was overthrown by the Egyptian army, the U.K.-based Arab Organization for Human Rights reported.