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COP27 bulletin: Day 2 witnesses renewed calls for the release of Alaa Abdel-Fattah, low African representation, and arbitrary arrests

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On the second day of the UN climate summit COP27, held in Sharm El-Sheikh, Egypt, the Committee for Justice documented a number of international and regional condemnations of the Egyptian human rights record.

The government of President Abdelfattah el-Sisi continues to crackdown on human rights, despite permitting a number of limited demonstrations and activities by environmental activists, such as the protest for demining on Sunday, and the protest by the Egyptian Leaders for Development organization to raise awareness of climate issues, which was organized on Monday. Essam Shiha, a member of the Egyptian National Council for Human Rights, praised the alleged tolerance of the Egyptian regime, saying it “sent a message to the world that Egypt will enable activists to freely express their opinions, provided that they respect Egyptian laws,” yet the regime has failed to respond to all appeals with regard to its human rights violations.

Continuous calls for the release of Alaa Abdel-Fattah:

On the second day of the conference, the representative of the Climate Action Network on behalf of environmental NGOs spoke at the opening session about the case of activist Alaa Abdel Fattah, and demanded his release and that of all prisoners of conscience in Egypt. She then ended her speech with a reference to the title of Abdel Fattah’s  book: “There is no Climate justice without human rights. We have not yet been defeated.”

The President of the Human Rights Council in the European Parliament, Maria Arena, in her speech, criticized Egypt’s human rights record, and what she described as “stifling” civil society in Egypt, the absence of freedom of opinion and expression, peaceful assembly and demonstration, and the prosecution of opponents with detention and prolonged imprisonment, as well as blocking hundreds of websites and news platforms.

Alexandria Villasenor, a climate justice activist, tweeted about the blocking of websites in Egypt including the site of her organization, Earth Uprising, in addition to the news agencies that cooperate with them, which hinders their work. “There is no climate action without truth and information,” she wrote.

Boris Johnson, the  former British Prime Minister, also raised the issue of activist Alaa Abdel-Fattah, and his full hunger strike, during a speech on the second day of COP27.

“It’s my strong belief that he should be released and granted consular access,” said Johnson. “I raised this with the Egyptian government while prime minister. President Sisi and I had a long conversation about it – and he did seem open for discussion.”

The German Government Commissioner for Human Rights, Louise Amtsberg, called on Egyptian authorities to release political prisoners, including Alaa, and said that such a measure would be an important signal that Egypt is taking this issue seriously.

The above calls came in conjunction with the arrival of Sana Seif, sister of Abdel Fattah, to Sharm El-Sheikh to attend the summit and raise her brother’s case, to pressure for his release.

A conference for Africa, but without Africans

Concerning African participation, the Ugandan activist, Nyombi Morris, expressed his astonishment at what he described as “the marginalization of climate activists” at the summit, after arriving in Egypt to attend the conference as part of the environmental justice campaign. Morris said in a media interview that he witnessed strict security measures in Egypt that “shattered his dreams”, adding that the Egyptian security services opened investigations at Sharm El-Sheikh airport with the activists coming to the summit and confronted them with questions and lengthy investigations that prompted them to rethink carefully before organizing any event that was planned. He also cited the Egyptian state’s policy of quelling protests with arrests, which disappointed him after being pleased with the choice of Egypt as a climate host as an African country. Morris is an environmental activist and founder of the Earth Volunteers youth organization that campaigns for climate justice.

Arbitrary arrests and violations:

In parallel with the summit, the security services continued their repression of human rights, by detaining the father of the YouTuber Abdullah Al-Sharif and the detention of Mohamed Magdy, a member of the Popular Movement in Alexandria, only a month and a half after his release.

Meanwhile, in Alexandria, journalist Mohamed Moussa was detained, and his whereabouts remain unknown. Laila Soueif, the mother of detained activist Alaa Abdel-Fattah, went to his detention facility today, to hand him a letter and belongings, and to receive a letter from him as scheduled, but the prison administration refused to hand her his letter, coinciding with his second day of water and hunger strike.

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