12 Sep 2022, 11:19

Egypt environment groups in 'fear' ahead of COP27: HRW

  BEIRUT, Sept 12, 2022 (BSS/AFP) - The Egyptian government has severely

restricted environmental groups' work, leaving activists fearful of publicly
scrutinising authorities ahead of the country hosting a crucial global
climate summit, Human Rights Watch said Monday.

The UN's annual Conference of the Parties (COP) involves nearly 200
countries, with hundreds of observers, NGOs and -- very often -- mass
demonstrations designed to ramp up the pressure on political leaders to
tackle climate change.

Egypt will host this year's event, COP27, in the Red Sea resort of Sharm el-
Sheikh in November.

"The Egyptian government has imposed arbitrary funding, research, and
registration obstacles that have debilitated local environmental groups,
forcing some activists into exile and others to steer clear of important
work," said Richard Pearshouse, environment director at Human Rights Watch.

"These restrictions violate the rights to freedom of assembly and association
and threaten Egypt's ability to uphold its environmental and climate action
commitments" as the host of COP27, the rights group added in a statement.

Egyptian authorities have lately championed concerns that industrialised
countries -- the biggest polluters -- have fallen short in helping developing
African nations tackle climate change impacts for which the continent shares
little blame.

But for one environmentalist cited by HRW, this is "because this intersects
with their interests, like the need for more funds".

HRW said it spoke to 13 activists, academics, scientists and journalists who
have been involved in climate action in Egypt, who all spoke on condition of
anonymity for security reasons.

Rights groups have repeatedly condemned Egypt's human rights record under
President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi, who ousted Islamist president Mohamed Morsi
in 2013 before becoming head of state the following year.

They allege the country holds some 60,000 political prisoners, many held on
charges of "spreading false news".

HRW noted that interviewees pointed to a "recent expansion of official
tolerance for environmental activities that are easily reconciled with
government priorities".

But the rights group said that activists were fearful of drawing attention to
issues including industrial pollution and the military's involvement in
"destructive forms of quarrying", as well as major infrastructure projects.

Leading environmental organisations in Egypt "have been weakened severely by
government restrictions and a pervasive sense of fear and uncertainty," HRW
said, citing several insiders within such entities.

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