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

CNN—Egypt is facing a barrage of criticism over what the rights group says is a crackdown on protests and activists, as it prepares to host the COP27 climate summit from Sunday. Rights groups have accused the Egyptian government of arbitrarily detaining activists after Egyptian dissidents abroad called for protests against President Abdel Fattah el-Sissi on Nov. 11 during the UN climate talks. United. According to rights groups, security forces set up checkpoints on the streets of Cairo, arresting people and searching their phones for any content related to the planned protests. The Egyptian Commission for Rights and Freedoms (ECRF), an NGO, said on Wednesday that 93 people had been arrested in Egypt in recent days. He said that according to National Security Prosecution investigations, some of those arrested allegedly sent videos calling for protests on social messaging apps. Some have also been charged with abusing social media, spreading false news and joining terrorist organizations – a repressive charge commonly used by the security apparatus against activists. Indian climate activist Ajit Rajagopal was arrested in Cairo last Sunday after undertaking a protest march from the Egyptian capital to Sharm el-Sheikh, the Red Sea resort where the COP27 conference will be held from November 6-18. Rajagopal was released after a brief detention in Cairo with his friend, lawyer Makarios Lahzy, according to a Facebook post by Lahzy. Reuters, who spoke to Rajagopal after his release on Monday, quoted the Indian activist as saying he was still trying to get accredited for COP27 but had no plans to resume his march. CNN has contacted Egyptian authorities for comment. Egypt experienced two mass uprisings in 2011 and 2013, which eventually paved the way for then-military leader Sisi to take power. Thousands of activists have since been imprisoned, spaces for public expression have been suppressed and press freedom curtailed. While protests are rare – and mostly illegal – in Egypt, a looming economic crisis and a brutal security regime have prompted new calls for protests from dissidents seeking to exploit a rare opportunity offered by the summit on the climate. Jailed activist, British-Egyptian citizen Alaa Abdelfattah, stepped up his hunger strike in an Egyptian jail this week amid warnings from relatives about his deteriorating health. “Alaa has been on a hunger strike for 200 days, surviving on just 100 calories of liquid a day,” said Sanaa Seif, sister of Abdelfattah, who is staging a sit-in outside Britain’s Foreign Office in London. . The COP, the annual UN-sponsored climate summit that brings together the signatories of the Paris Agreement to fight climate change, is traditionally a place where civil society representatives have the opportunity to mingle to experts and policy makers and to observe the negotiations first hand. It is not uncommon to see a young activist approaching a national delegation walking down the hall to their next meeting or an indigenous leader chatting with a minister on the sidelines of a debate. And while security is still tight – this is, after all, a gathering attended by dozens of heads of state and government – ​​peaceful protests have always been part of the COP. Tens of thousands of people marched through the streets of last year’s host city, Glasgow, Scotland, for the summit. Yet Egypt has tightened rules on who can access the talks. As in the past, this year’s COP conference will take place at two different sites. The official part of the summit is managed by the UN and is only accessible to accredited persons, including official delegations, representatives of NGOs and other civil society groups, experts, journalists and others. observers. Then there is a separate public area where climate exhibits and events take place throughout the two weeks of the summit. But while this public part of the summit was once open to everyone, those wishing to attend this year will need to register in advance. The ability to demonstrate will also be restricted. While the Egyptian government has pledged to allow protests, it said protests will have to take place in a special “protest zone,” a dedicated space away from the main conference site, and will have to be announced. in advance. Guidelines posted on the official COP website indicate that any other walks would need to be specially approved. Anyone wishing to organize a protest will have to register for the public part of the conference – a requirement that may scare off activists fearful of surveillance. Among the rules imposed by the Egyptian authorities on the demonstrations is the ban on the use of “impersonated objects, such as satirical drawings of heads of state, negotiators, individuals”. The UN has urged Egypt to ensure that the public has a say in the conference. UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Volker Türk said it was “essential that everyone – including civil society representatives – can participate meaningfully at COP27 in Sharm el -Sheikh” and that decisions regarding climate change must be “transparent, inclusive and accountable. Separately, a group of five independent human rights experts, all UN special rapporteurs, issued a statement last month expressing concern over the restrictions ahead of the summit. They said the Egyptian government had imposed strict limits on who can participate in the talks and how, and said “a wave of government restrictions on participation raised fears of reprisals against activists.” “This new wave follows years of persistent and sustained repression against civil society and human rights defenders using security as a pretext to undermine the legitimate rights of civil society to participate in public affairs in Egypt,” said the group in a press release. A group of Egyptian civil rights groups have launched a petition calling on the Egyptian authorities to end the prosecution of activists and civil society organizations and to end restrictions on the rights to freedom of expression, association and peaceful assembly. “Egyptian authorities have for years used draconian laws, including anti-terrorism, cybercrime and civil society laws, to stifle all forms of peaceful dissent and close civic space,” the officials said. groups in the petition. Human Rights Watch, Amnesty International, Friends of the Earth and dozens of other groups have also spoken out, demanding the release of detained activists. Ahead of the climate conference, the Egyptian government presented an initiative pardoning prisoners imprisoned for their political activity. Authorities also reported a new prison, Badr-3, 70 kilometers (43 miles) northeast of Cairo, where other prisoners have been transferred under supposedly better conditions. But rights groups said the government’s initiatives brought little change. “As COP27 approaches, Egypt’s public relations machine is running at full speed to cover up the terrible reality in the country’s prisons, where prisoners held for political reasons languish in horrific conditions in violation of the absolute ban torture and other ill-treatment,” said Agnès Callamard. , Secretary General of Amnesty International. “Prisoners face the same human rights abuses that have repeatedly ravaged ancient institutions, revealing the Egyptian authorities’ lack of political will to end the country’s human rights crisis. Not all news on the site expresses the views of the site, but we transmit this news automatically and translate it through programmatic technology on the site and not from a human editor.


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