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12 human rights groups meet in Egypt for rare roundtable

November 16, 2022 at 12:16 pm

People protest against greenwashing the human rights crisis during the COP27 in Egypt on 13 November, 2022 [Romy Arroyo Fernandez/NurPhoto via Getty Images]

Twelve independent, Egyptian, regional and international human rights organisations met in Cairo for the first time in years to discuss opportunities to promote and protect human rights in Egypt.

Participants at the roundtable, hosted by the Egyptian Commission for Rights and Freedoms, concluded that opening civic space and allowing engagement between groups are prerequisites for the country to meet economic, political and environmental rights challenges.

“The participants look forward to future constructive engagement with the Egyptian government,” the statement, signed by Human Rights Watch (HRW), Al-Nadeem Centre, EuroMed Rights and others said.

“We hope that Egypt will soon emerge from the human rights crisis that has undermined essential human interaction and creative collaboration to the detriment of the Egyptian human rights NGOs and the international community.”

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The roundtable was made possible by the government’s partial easing of travel restrictions into Egypt by international civil society organisations during the COP27 UN summit, which is in its second week in Sharm El-Sheikh.

Since the human rights crackdown has intensified in 2013, the Egyptian government has blocked entry into the country of some international human rights organisations and banned a number of human rights advocates from leaving.

The government has used arbitrary travel bans to target and silence civil society. They are not formally announced, are open-ended as well as being arbitrary. Often victims find out that they are banned from travelling at the airport and many have also had their assets frozen.

On 10 November Egyptian authorities denied Giorgio Caracciolo, an Italian human rights defender and deputy director for International Programmes at DIGNITY, entry into Egypt even though he had a valid visa and was due to participate in COP27.

As well as imposing travel bans on activists and rights defenders, the Egyptian authorities ran a clandestine registration process through which they blocked independent Egyptian NGOs from participating.