Egypt’s Misuse of Counter-terrorism Measures Casts Shadow over COP27
Published by Cairo Institute for Human Rights Studies on October 26, 2022
In the weeks running up to the United Nations international Climate Change Conference (COP27) to be held in November, in Sharm El Sheikh, Egypt, the undersigned members of the Civil Society Coalition on Human Rights and Counter-terrorism express their support for independent civil society activists in Egypt and their call to be allowed to carry out their legitimate, peaceful activities without state harassment, intimidation, defamation, detention, prosecution or violence.
Repression of civil society activists, human right lawyers, journalists, academic researchers, opposition political figures and other non-violent critics of the government in Egypt is facilitated by the misuse of counter-terrorism legislation.
Many prominent imprisoned activists face charges, or have been convicted, of supporting terrorist entities as a result of their non-violent political activities, or exercising their right to freedom of expression.
Egypt holds around 60,000 political prisoners, among them prominent activists like Alaa Abd el-Fattah, who has been on hunger strike for over 200 days to protest his unjust imprisonment; lawyers like Mohamed al-Baqer, Hoda Abdelmoneim, and Ibrahim Metwally Hegazy; journalists like Ismail al-Iskanderani, Hala Fahmy and Safaa Al-Korbagi and blogger Mohamed Oxygen; prominent political figures like Abdel Moniem Aboul Fotouh, and even environmental rights activists, like Ahmed Amasha.
The detention of all of these, and many other, wrongfully imprisoned people rests on false accusations of support for terrorism. They should all be released and the fabricated charges made against them dropped.
Egypt is a controversial host for this major international conference. The international community recognizes the essential role that civil society plays in addressing the climate crisis. Under the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change, states have an obligation to “promote and facilitate … public participation in addressing climate change.” Egypt’s harsh crackdown on independent civil society, the media and peaceful dissent has a chilling effect on public participation, which undermines the effectiveness of necessary climate action.
Widespread violations of human rights in Egypt, including disappearances, torture, indiscriminate use of lethal force against unarmed protesters and denial of basic freedoms of assembly, association and expression are built on a false pretext of taking measures to counter terrorism. Such misuse of the fight against terrorism to mask brazen violations of international human rights law is counterproductive.
We join with Egyptian activists, and activists from around the world, in recognizing that there can be no climate justice without civil society space. As members of a coalition dedicated to the protection of human rights and the rule of law while countering terrorism, we deplore Egypt’s sustained record of serious human rights violations carried out behind the veil of counter-terrorism. We urge all states participating in COP27 to support the vital role of civil society in advancing climate action, including by calling for the release of Egyptian activists, dissidents and climate activists wrongfully imprisoned on counter-terrorism charges.
- Cairo Institute for Human Rights Studies
- Kenya Human Rights Commission
- MENA Rights Group
- Unidosc, Mexico
- International Commission of Jurists
- Association Konekt
- International Civil Liberties Monitoring Group
- FIDH (International Federation for Human Rights), within the framework of the Observatory for the Protection of Human Rights Defenders
- World Organization Against Torture (OMCT), within the framework of the Observatory for the Protection of Human Rights Defenders
The views expressed here may not represent those of all members of the Civil Society Coalition on Human Rights and Counter-terrorism.
 See Article 6 of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (1992), https://unfccc.int/resource/docs/convkp/conveng.pdf.