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Rights groups sceptical about Egypt’s pledge to allow protests at COP27

May 25, 2022 at 1:13 pm

Egyptian Minister of Foreign Affairs and upcoming chairman of COP27 Sameh Shoukry on May 13, 2022 [PHILIP DAVALI/Ritzau Scanpix/AFP via Getty Images]

Activists and rights organisations are sceptical about the Egyptian government’s pledge to allow protesters to demonstrate in a “facility adjacent to the conference centre” at the upcoming COP27.

Egypt is this year’s host for COP27, which will be held in the Red Sea Resort of Sharm El-Sheikh in November.

In an interview with the Associated Press Foreign Minister Sameh Shoukry said that protests would be allowed: “We are developing a facility adjacent to the conference centre that will provide them the full opportunity of participation, of activism, of demonstration of voicing that opinion.”

“We will also provide them access, as is traditionally done on one day of the negotiations, to the negotiating hold itself.”

He added: “We recognise [protesters] impact, their determination, their commitment to keep us all honest as governmental representatives and parties that we should not be delinquent and rising to the occasion and dealing with this very important issue.”

Protests at the global conference traditionally last for days, yet in Egypt protests have been banned and thousands of peaceful demonstrators jailed.

In 2013 the Egyptian government issued a law criminalising protests, punishable by jail sentences and hefty fines.

READ: Egypt issued highest number of death sentences worldwide in 2021, says Amnesty

In 2019 thousands of activists, journalists, politicians and other civilians were arrested following anti-government protests that took place across Egypt.

Several key players in the 2011 revolution have been arrested and detained whilst in August 2013 security forces massacred and killed up to 1,000 protesters in Rabaa Square.

Sisi Era - Cartoon [Latuff/MiddleEastMonitor]

Sisi Era – Cartoon [Carlos Latuff/MiddleEastMonitor]

Shoukry’s comments came the same day Amnesty International called on Egypt to lift restrictions on civic space to ensure a successful COP27.

“Egypt’s abysmal record of cracking down on peaceful dissent and civic space must not be allowed to undermine the success of the UN Climate Change Conference,” the rights watchdog said.

It also called on participating governments to take the opportunity to push for tangible human rights progress in the country and warned that the Egyptian government must not use it as an opportunity to rebrand and deflect criticism of their human rights record.

In November last year Human Rights Watch criticised the choice of Egypt as host, warning it could use the event to “whitewash its appalling record of human rights abuses.”

It highlighted the case of environmental activist Ahmed Amasha who was detained in the summer of 2020, forcibly disappeared and tortured.

Amasha has been banned from receiving visitors, exercising, meeting his lawyer, reading books and adequate medical care.