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UN probes claims Egypt police spying on COP27 participants

November 15, 2022 at 11:26 am

Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi (R) and German Chancellor Olaf Scholz meet on the sidelines of the 2022 United Nations Climate Change Conference (COP27) on November 08, 2022 [Egyptian Presidency/Anadolu Agency]

The United Nations yesterday confirmed that it is investigating allegations of surveillance and misconduct by Egyptian police providing security at the COP27 climate conference taking place in the Egyptian resort city of Sharm El-Sheikh.

This came after claims that attendees at the German pavilion were photographed and filmed by Egyptian police officers.

On Sunday, the UN Climate Office said in a statement to the Associated Press that the UN Department of Safety and Security has been made aware of “allegations of the Code of Conduct violations and is investigating these reports.”

However, an Egyptian representative, Wael Aboulmagd, described the allegations as “ludicrous”.

“Some people we’ve been talking to, from the developing world, in particular, are tired of these apparently intentional distractions from climate issues,” Aboulmagd told reporters.

Liane Schalatek, director of the Heinrich Böll Foundation in Washington, told ZDF television that she felt “much less comfortable [this year] than in previous COP conferences”.

“When we book a venue for meetings related to civil society discussions, the technical support cameras are always directed at the participants’ faces. This is unusual and useless (…) and we cannot rule out the possibility that everything is being recorded,” she said.

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On Sunday, Reuters quoted three sources familiar with the issue as saying that the German federal police, the BKA, had warned the German delegation by email of “overt and covert surveillance through photography and videography” by Egyptian agents.

Human Rights Watch (HRW) has previously expressed concern that the Egyptian authorities’ COP27 app could record data stored on participants’ phones.

The NGO also noted that cameras have been installed in hundreds of taxis in Sharm El-Sheikh that are “connected” to the Ministry of Interior.

Since the conference kicked off last week, activists have complained about “interrogations” and strict conditions imposed on organising protests.

COP27: will there be action after the talks? - Cartoon [Sabaaneh/Middle East Monitor]

COP27: will there be action after the talks? – Cartoon [Sabaaneh/Middle East Monitor]