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Egypt stifles environmental work ahead of COP

BEIRUT (AP) — An international human rights group on Monday called on the United Nations to ensure host countries of its climate conference commit to upholding human rights standards. man after documenting cases of repression against environmental groups in Egypt, host of COP27 later this year.

Human Rights Watch said in a report based on interviews with more than a dozen academics, scientists and activists that the government restrictions violate basic human rights and call into question the Egyptian government’s ability to uphold its rights. fundamental climate commitments.

The Egyptian government has engaged in a widespread crackdown on dissent in recent years that has detained thousands of people, many without trial, according to rights groups. Under President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi, Egypt has also intimidated activists, and new laws have virtually banned many civil society organizations from operating.

“The world needs more climate activism, not less, and there can be no such effective activism when the government treats civic groups as a threat, not an asset,” said Richard Pearshouse, director of the environment to Human Rights Watch, in the report. “UNFCCC member states and the Secretariat should lobby the Egyptian government to ensure that environmental groups feel it is safe to engage in and beyond the COP.”

Egypt’s human rights record is under scrutiny as the country prepares to host the international conference aimed at slowing climate change through coordinated global action.

In July, several dozen organizations called on Egypt to end its crackdown and allow people to exercise their freedom of expression ahead of the summit.

In a joint statement signed by 36 groups, including Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch, they expressed concern that Egypt will largely maintain its ban on protests at the November conference.

Egyptian Foreign Minister Sameh Shoukry, who is also the president-elect of the upcoming annual conference of the parties, told The Associated Press in an interview in May that a facility is being developed next to the venue of the conference where demonstrations can take place. He also said activists would have access, as is customary, to negotiations in the Red Sea resort town of Sharm el-Sheikh. He did not say whether protests would be allowed elsewhere.

An Egyptian government media official did not immediately respond to a request for comment on Monday’s Human Rights Watch report. The United Nations office overseeing the climate conference, the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change, also did not immediately respond to a request for comment on the right-wing group’s appeal.

All of those interviewed for the report spoke on condition of anonymity for fear of reprisal, the group said, and six declined to speak at all. Those who spoke described harassment by authorities, obstruction and a “general atmosphere of fear” in the country and said they feared expressing opinions that could be seen as critical even during the conference. led by the UN.

Some described a partial opening of government policy to environmental campaigns in the run-up to the summit, but only for initiatives deemed compatible with the authorities’ goals, such as garbage collection. They said talking about the country’s use of coal and mega-infrastructure projects such as building a new administrative capital are seen as too risky issues to tackle.

Some expressed hope that this year’s conference could be a chance to try to raise awareness of the free speech environment that has existed in Egypt for years.

“There can be no improvement in the environmental situation without an improvement in freedom of expression and the general human rights situation,” a person quoted in the HRW report said.

Mary Cashion

The author Mary Cashion