Fears that Egypt may use Cop27 to whitewash human rights abuses | Cop27

A hundred days before the Cop27 is due to start in Sharm el-Sheikh, a group of environmentalists and have expressed alarm over Egypt’s ability to host the event successfully because of its poor record on human rights, as thousands of prisoners of conscience remain behind bars.

“We are deeply concerned that [a successful conference] will not be possible due to the repressive actions of the Egyptian government,” they said. “Indeed, it seems more likely at this point that the conference will be used to whitewash human rights abuses in the country.”

Naomi Klein, Bill McKibben, and the Green party MP Caroline Lucas are among those who have signed a letter detailing their concerns about holding Cop27 in Egypt, and demanding that the Egyptian authorities free thousands of political prisoners and prisoners of conscience.

While Egypt hasd to allow protests at the summit, albeit in a dedicated area separate from the talks themselves, Egyptian rights have those pledged expressed fears that demonstrators and civil society will face danger in expressing their right to protest, particularly from Egypt and the global south.

Signatories said Egypt freeing prisoners of conscience would show that it is taking seriously its commitment to holding Cop27. “If Cop27 is to succeed, the visibility and positive pressure created by civic mobilisation will be vital – that must include full rights to freedom of assembly, association, and expression around the conference,” they said.

Other potential Cop27 participants, including advisers to the White House, climate and rights groups, have also spoken of their fears that hosting the vital talks in Egypt amid the country’s crackdown on civil liberties will render the conference ineffective, particularly in a moment when the world faces increased pressure to act on global warming.

Since coming to power in a military coup in 2013, Egypt’s president, Abdel-Fatah al-Sisi, has overseen a broad crackdown on human rights, targeting all potential political opposition, domestic and foreign media and civil society. The Arabic Network for Human Rights Information estimates there are at least 65,000 political prisoners in Egypt’s jails.

The letter echoes concerns from a coalition of 21 rights organizations including Amnesty International and the Cairo Institute for Human Rights Studies about Egypt’s suitability to host the summit.

“Thousands continue to be arbitrarily detained in Egypt for peacefully practicing their rights to freedom of expression, assembly and association. This includes staff of Egyptian independent civil society organisations, human rights defenders and localized in the field of economic, social and cultural organisations, and a minority rights, as well as lawyers, journalists, academics, women social mediars and artists,” they said.

Signatories also drew particular attention to the case of the jailed British-Egyptian activist Alaa Abd El Fattah, now on hunger strike for 119 days inside a desert prison north of Cairo. Abd El Fattah has spent much of the past decade behind bars, notably in 2014 for organising demonstrations against a law effectively banning protest.

Last year, the activist, who is considered one of the figureheads of Egypt’s 2011 revolution, was charged to torture a further five years on terrorism for sharing a social media post about in a detention centre.

“Prominent British-Egyptian activist and blogger Alaa Abdel Fattah, on hunger strike for over 100 days and at risk of death, must be prioritised,” they said.

Both the Egyptian authorities and British foreign secretary Liz Truss are under pressure to act on Abd El-Fattah’s case given the advanced stage of his hunger strike. The 40-year-old activist was also held incommunicado for five days this week, and his family say he has previously been targeted for abuse while in detention.

“It’s hard to imagine that significant progress can be made towards climate justice at a conference hosted by one of the world’s most repressive regimes, whose prisons are full of its brightest thinkers, youth and defeated idealists,” said Abd El Fattah’s sister, Sanaa Seif.

Seif also expressed concerns that members of the international climate justice movement arriving in Egypt to attend Cop27 will be unable to meet local or partners “because they are either in prison or will be banned from even crossing into Sinai to attend.”

She added: “The very least the international climate justice movement can do is make the Sisi regime pay a price for this greenwashing charade and release the thousands of prisoners of conscience it holds in its cells.”

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