Egypt faces criticism over crackdown on activists ahead of COP27 climate summit


Egypt faces a barrage of criticism over what rights groups say is a crackdown on protesters and activists as it prepares to host the COP27 climate summit from Sunday.

Human rights groups accuse Egyptian dissidents of arbitrarily detaining activists abroad, after calling for protests against President Abdel Fattah El-Sisi during UN climate talks on November 11. blaming the government.

Security forces have set up checkpoints in Cairo’s streets, stopping people and searching mobile phones for content related to the planned protests, according to rights groups.

The Egyptian Commission for Rights and Freedoms (ECRF), an NGO, said Wednesday that 93 people had recently been arrested in Egypt. Some of those arrested have allegedly sent videos calling for protests against social messaging apps, according to a National Security Prosecutor’s investigation. Some have been charged with crimes. This is a repressive accusation commonly used by security agencies against activists.

Indian climate activist Ajit Rajagopal left the Egyptian capital for a protest walk last Sunday to Sharm el-Sheikh, the Red Sea resort where the COP27 conference will be held from November 6-18. He was later detained in Cairo. According to Lahzy’s Facebook post, his friend and lawyer, along with Makarios Lahzy, were detained briefly in Cairo. Reuters, who spoke with Rajagopal after he was released on Monday, said the Indian activist said he was trying to get accreditation for COP27 but had no plans to resume the march.

CNN has reached out to Egyptian officials for comment.

Egypt experienced two large-scale riots in 2011 and 2013, ultimately paving the way for Sisi, then chief military officer, to rise to power. Since then, thousands of activists have been imprisoned, the public space has been crushed, and press freedom has declined.

Protests are rare and mostly illegal in Egypt, but the impending economic crisis and brutal security regime have sparked renewed calls for demonstrations by dissidents to take advantage of the rare opportunity presented by the climate summit. It is done.

One of the imprisoned activists, Alaa Abdelfata, an Egyptian of Anglo-Egyptian descent, escalated a hunger strike in an Egyptian prison this week amid warnings from his relatives about his declining health. “Allah is on his 200 days of hunger strike. He survives on his 100 calories a day of liquids alone,” said Abdelfatter’s sister during a sit-in outside the British Foreign Office in London. , said Sanaa his seif.

The COP is the annual United Nations-sponsored climate summit that brings together signatories to the Paris Agreement to Combat Climate Change. Traditionally, representatives of civil society interact and negotiate with experts and policymakers. A place where you have the opportunity to directly observe the

It’s not uncommon to see young activists approach national delegations walking down the hallway to their next meeting, or indigenous leaders chatting with ministers alongside debates.

Security has always been high, but peaceful protests have always been part of the COP, as dozens of heads of state and government attend. During the summit, tens of thousands of people marched through the streets of last year’s host city of Glasgow, Scotland.

However, Egypt has tightened its rules on who can attend the talks.

As in previous years, this year’s COP meetings will be held in two different locations. The official portion of the Summit is run by the United Nations and is only accessible to authorized persons, including official delegations, representatives of NGOs and other civil society groups, experts, journalists and other observers.

In addition, there will be another public venue for climate exhibitions and events over the two weeks of the summit. However, while anyone has been able to attend the public portion of the summit in the past, this year those wishing to attend will have to register in advance.

Opportunities to protest are also limited.

The Egyptian government has promised to allow demonstrations, but said protests must take place in special “protest zones” – dedicated spaces away from the main conference hall – and be announced in advance. Other marches must be specially approved according to the guidelines posted on the official website.

Anyone wishing to organize a protest must register for the public portion of the meeting. Among the rules imposed by Egyptian authorities on the protests were the use of “impersonated objects, such as caricatures of heads of state, negotiators and individuals.” is prohibited.

The United Nations called on Egypt to allow its citizens to speak at the conference.

UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Volker Türk said it was “essential that all, including representatives of civil society, could participate meaningfully at COP27 in Sharm el-Sheikh” and that decisions on climate change were “transparent and Inclusive and accountable.

Separately, a group of five independent human rights experts, all of whom are UN special rapporteurs, issued a statement last month warning of restrictions ahead of the summit. They said the Egyptian government had imposed severe restrictions on who and how could participate in the talks, saying “a wave of government restrictions on participation has heightened fears of reprisals against activists.”

“This new wave follows years of sustained and ongoing crackdowns on civil society and human rights defenders who use security as a pretext to undermine civil society and their legitimate rights to participate in public affairs in Egypt. ,” the group said in a statement.

A group of civil rights groups in Egypt has launched a petition calling on Egyptian authorities to end prosecutions of civil society activists and organizations and to end restrictions on freedoms of expression, association and peaceful assembly.

“For years, the Egyptian authorities have adopted draconian laws, including those on counter-terrorism, cybercrime and civil society, to suppress all forms of peaceful dissent and to close public spheres.” The group said in a petition.

Human Rights Watch, Amnesty International, Friends of the Earth, and many other groups have also spoken out demanding the release of detained activists.

Ahead of the climate conference, the Egyptian government presented an initiative to pardon prisoners imprisoned for political activities. Authorities also point to a new prison, Badr-3, 70 kilometers (43 miles) northeast of Cairo, where other prisoners are said to have been moved to better conditions.

But rights groups said government initiatives had brought little change.

“Ahead of COP27, Egypt’s PR machine has taken steps to cover up the horrific reality of the country’s prisons, where prisoners detained for political reasons suffer in appalling conditions that violate the absolute prohibition on torture and other ill-treatment. And it works on all cylinders,” said Agnès Calamar. , Executive Director of Amnesty International.

“Prisoners face the same human rights abuses that have repeatedly degraded old facilities, demonstrating the lack of political will by the Egyptian authorities to end the country’s human rights crisis.”

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