Host Egypt's human rights record in spotlight at COP27

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Leading Egyptian activist Alaa Abd el-Fattah.
Leading Egyptian activist Alaa Abd el-Fattah.
  • The UN Human Rights Commissioner has called for the release of jailed blogger and activist Alaa Abdel Fattah.
  • Fattah stopped drinking water as he took his hunger strike to another level at the start of COP27.
  • Egyptian authorities arrested activists who planned to protest at COP27.

Jailed human rights activist Alaa Abdel Fattah stopped drinking water in prison to up the ante of his hunger strike on the first day of the COP27 summit underway in Egypt.

UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Volker Türk fears Fattah's latest protest could result in his death.

"On 2 April 2022, Abdel Fattah started a partial hunger strike, with minimal calorie intake. On 1 November, with his health already fragile, Abdel Fattah stepped up his hunger strike. He then stopped drinking water on the first day of the UN climate summit [COP27], 6 November," the UNHCR said in a statement.

For the past 10 years, Fattah has been in and out of prison which the UN said was because of "his activism in relation to human rights violations perpetrated by Egyptian security forces and the use of military courts to try civilians".

He was sentenced to five years in prison in 2015 and was released in March 2019, only to be arrested again on 29 September. He was then held in pre-trial detention for two years before being sentenced to another five years in prison in December 2021 on charges of publishing false news.

Türk said: "Abdel Fattah is in great danger. His dry hunger strike puts his life at acute risk."

He called on Egyptian authorities to release him.

Egypt resumed its presidential pardon programme, but Fattah was not part of those who were released. 

Türk in a strongly worded statement added Fattah should not have been in detention in the first place.

"I call on the Egyptian authorities to fulfil their human rights obligations and immediately release all those arbitrarily detained, including those in pre-trial detention, as well as those unfairly convicted. 

"No one should be detained for exercising their basic human rights or defending those of others," he said.

Egypt's human rights spotlight

During the run-up to COP27, Egyptian authorities arrested dozens of protesters such as Indian climate activist Ajit Rajagopal.

Rajagopal, who has since been released, was arrested as he undertook a "March For Our Planet" on foot from Cairo to Sharm el-Sheikh, the host city for COP27.

The deputy Middle East and North Africa director at Human Rights Watch (HRW), Adam Coogle, said Egypt should not show its repressive nature at the summit.

"Egyptian authorities should not be extending its human rights crackdown into the summit space," he added.

READ | Climate shock: More than 40% of African youth discouraged from starting families because of climate crisis - report

On 1 November, Egyptian media reported authorities had arrested dozens of people since the beginning of October for calling for anti-government protests at COP27. 

Some of those detained are accused of "misusing social media" and "joining a terrorist group".

According to local media, the number of people arrested was growing by the day.

This as authorities increased police checkpoints in downtown Cairo and around key city streets, arbitrarily stopping people and forcing them to hand over their phones for unconstitutional checks into their social media content. 

In recent years, authorities have repeatedly set up such checkpoints around major events, resulting in dozens of arrests.

The News24 Africa Desk is supported by the Hanns Seidel Foundation. The stories produced through the Africa Desk and the opinions and statements that may be contained herein do not reflect those of the Hanns Seidel Foundation.

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