Rights groups: Egypt should open civil society space ahead of COP27

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CAIRO — Several dozen organizations on Tuesday urged Egypt to end its crackdown on civil society and allow people to exercise freedom of expression ahead of the UN climate change summit being held in Egypt.

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 during the November conference.

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

The Egyptian government effectively banned all public protests in 2013, shortly after President Abdel Fattah el-Sissi, then a chief of the country’s army, led the military’s ouster of an elected but divisive Islamist president. In the years that followed, el-Sissi was elected president and any demonstrators who dared take to the streets were quickly arrested. Many have received years of imprisonment. Authorities claim that any assembly requires their consent.

In the statement, the groups also called on other countries to hold Egypt accountable to international human rights laws and standards, and said they should not confine protests to a specific space.

“UN member states, particularly those attending COP27, should call on the Egyptian authorities to end restrictions on freedom of assembly, association and expression and to take other meaningful steps to address civil society concerns and ensure their safe and meaningful participation that can contribute to a successful COP27,” the statement said.

In the statement, the organizations also said the government should end its “relentless attacks on human rights defenders, civil society organizations and the independent media” and stop using draconian laws to detain people for expressing opinions or exercising their fundamental rights.

El-Sissi has overseen an unprecedented political crackdown, silenced critics and jailed thousands. Shortly after the military took power in 2013, an Islamist sit-in was broken up by security forces in an operation that left hundreds dead. Since then, a handful of small protests have been met with violence and their participants imprisoned, often for months or years without trial.

According to a tally by the Committee to Protect Journalists, a US-based non-profit organization, Egypt is the world’s third-worst prison guard for journalists, after China and Myanmar.

https://www.washingtonpost.com/world/rights-groups-egypt-should-open-civic-space-ahead-of-cop27/2022/07/12/a863e08c-021d-11ed-8beb-2b4e481b1500_story.html?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=referral&utm_campaign=wp_world Rights groups: Egypt should open civil society space ahead of COP27

Dustin Huang

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