A month ago I wrote to Dr. William McCrea, an MP who had been particularly outspoken on the issue of the persecution of Copts in Egypt. I asked him
- How Britain might help the Coptic community in Egypt ?
- What he thought about British exports of arms to Egypt ?
- What he thought about one British multinational still supplying tear gas to Egypt ?
He kindly forwarded my letter to Alistair Burt, Minister for North Africa and the Middle East. I had also written earlier to Alistair Burt, and even the Prime Minister had forwarded one of my letters to him, but the Minister hadn’t so far replied to either. However this time he did reply in considerable detail.
You can read his response in detail in the attached letter. However I will try to summarize both the more encouraging and more negative aspects of his response.
What I think Egypt’s revolutionaries will like about the British Minister’s response.
- His assurance that Britain continues to monitor the human rights situation in Egypt.
- His obviously deep concern about the protection of and rights of Copts under any new constitution.
- His assurance that the British government is encouraging SCAF to keep to its’ timetable for the transition to civilian rule. (This letter was written prior to the “judicial coup” of 14 June).
- His affirmation that the British government hopes to see a new Egyptian constitution which respects the interests of “all Egyptian people.”
However Egypt’s revolutionaries and liberals will be less encouraged by
- His claim that the British government can not prevent British Multinationals with factories outside the U.K. supplying the Egyptian military with crowd control material, including tear gas. He says it would “not be legally viable” and “such controls would be impossible to enforce.”
- His failure to explain why the British government continues to allow British arms exports to Egypt’s military regime despite acknowledging that “human rights and fundamental freedoms are mandatory considerations for all export licence applications.”
And below are some photographs I took in February showing the effects of tear gas used on crowds. Many people were vomiting and one man had gone into convulsions.