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Day 1 of COP27: Human rights situation during climate summit

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The United Nations Conference on Climate Change (COP27), has kicked off in Egypt’s Sharm El-Sheikh. It is held from 6 to 18 November 2022, amid an ongoing repression of human rights in the host country.

The escalation of repression is linked to security measures related to the COP27 as well as calls for anti-government protests to be held on November 11, during the summit.

The Committee for Justice will publish a daily bulletin throughout COP27, primarily to document the number and extent of human rights violations committed by the Egyptian authorities against citizens and also to shed light on related events.

Day 1, November 6, 2022:

On the first day of the summit, the Committee for Justice observed a number of events related to human rights as follows:

In conjunction with the first day of the conference, detained activist Alaa Abdel-Fattah escalated his partial hunger strike, which has been going on for more than 200 days, as he stopped drinking water completely, according to his last letter to his family. The full hunger strike seriously threatens Alaa’s life. His decision was followed by campaigns of solidarity on various social media platforms, and a letter from British Prime Minister, Rishi Sunak, to work for Alaa’s release, to end the unacceptable treatment to which he is subjected, and to be committed to presenting his case and emphasizing it before Egyptian President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi.

Amnesty International also issued a statement today calling on world leaders participating in the climate summit to pay attention to Egyptian propaganda that seeks to conceal the reality of their repressive practices against hundreds of citizens who have been arrested during the past two weeks.

With regard to calls to demonstrate during the conference, Amnesty denounced the arrest of hundreds in connection with the calls for protests.

“The arrest of hundreds of people merely because they were suspected of supporting the call for peaceful protests raises serious concerns over how the authorities will respond to people wishing to protest during COP27 – an essential feature of any UN climate conference. The Egyptian authorities must allow peaceful demonstrators to gather freely and refrain from using unlawful force or arbitrary arrests to deter protests,” said Philip Luther, Amnesty International’s Middle East and North Africa Research and Advocacy Director.

Meanwhile, a report by Vivian Lee for the New York Times said that Egypt’s “repressive politics have undermined its attempts to frame itself as a climate champion of the developing world.” It pointed out that the fact that Egypt is hosting the summit has raised questions on whether a country with repressive policies, both in terms of environment and human rights, is eligible to be a host.

“Mr. el-Sisi’s government has jailed or driven into exile thousands of perceived political opponents since coming to power in a 2013 military takeover. They include ordinary Egyptians who criticize the authorities on Facebook and well-known opposition politicians,” the NY Times reported.

The prominent international environmental activist, Greta Thunberg, had announced, days before the summit, that she would not attend due to human rights violations in Egypt, and also called for the release of all prisoners of conscience in Egypt. She signed the petition launched by a coalition of human rights organizations working on Egypt, with the aim of pressuring the Egyptian government to stop committing violations, and asking it to release about 60,000 political prisoners who are being held in appalling conditions, subjected to systematic torture and deprived of adequate medical care.

The Guardian published a report on the COP27 application run by the Egyptian government, and the concerns raised by activists regarding digital security and the government’s use of it to monitor critics. The app requests, upon downloading and installing it on mobile devices, many permissions for the Egyptian Ministry of Communications and Information Technology to access the user’s location, photos and emails.

In terms of the crackdown against environmental activists, CFJ has documented the arrest of an Indian environmental activist named Ajit Rajgopal, who arrived in Egypt to attend the summit. Security forces detained him for 24 hours and also detained his lawyer, Makarios Lahzi, for the same period before releasing them without presenting them to any investigative body. Ajit left the country immediately after his release, and did not attend the conference.

With regard to the movement and accommodation of participants in the summit and the Egyptian government’s responsibility to enable them to organize and gather, CFJ has documented a large number of tweets related to the prices of accommodation designated to receive COP27 participants. Climate activist McQuistan Colin tweeted: “Why are hotels charging more for participants arriving for the climate conference? I booked months ago. I am now being asked to pay twice the amount?” The Saudi journalist, Ali Al-Harbi, also tweeted about the increase in hotel room prices during the days of the conference compared to the days after its end. “326790 riyals for 5 nights only in Sharm El Sheikh! This is a comparison of the prices of a 5-star hotel in Sharm El Sheikh during the days of the conference, for an amount of 1244 riyals for the same length of stay on the day immediately following the end of the conference on November 19!”

Jacob Rees-Mogg, British Member of Parliament, also tweeted: “The Prime Minister is right not to go to COP. The cost of living won’t be solved in Sharm el Sheikh where each hotel room for the conference is £2,000 a night.”

The first day of the summit also witnessed the organization of a demonstration by dozens of participants from several European and Asian countries calling for an end to the killing of animals under the slogan “vegetarianism is the solution”, in front of the conference hall in Sharm El-Sheikh.

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