Civil society groups report surveillance and intimidation at Cop27 Cop27

Civil society groups report surveillance and intimidation at Cop27 Cop27

Members of civil society attending Cop27 described how surveillance and intimidation by Egyptian authorities threatened their participation in the climate conference.

Issues reported by attendees include overt surveillance, conference staff monitoring their meetings, and accommodation issues.

International civil society participants, all of whom asked not to be named for their protection, told the Guardian how uniformed or plainclothes conference staff, supposedly on hand to provide security, technical or cleaning assistance to delegates, appeared to be busy monitoring them and instead of controlling the activity. support.

“Just talking about the word activism means you’re very quickly surrounded by people eavesdropping on you,” said one. Conference staff, he said, repeatedly surrounded civil society delegates to create an uncomfortable atmosphere if they mentioned the word activism in conversations or tried to discuss it with colleagues.

“Mentioning activity in conversation means that ‘cleaners’ and technical staff are coming to you. Even the “cleaners” will come and listen to foreign government tribunes,” he said.

The issues described by the visiting attendees reflect many of the everyday problems Egyptian civil society activists have faced over the past decade as Egyptian authorities, and in particular the country’s security forces, crack down on independent organizations of all kinds.

Surveillance and intimidation of activists and threats of arrest are commonplace, while independent groups, from anti-torture organizations to trade unions, are subject to raids and arrests by security forces that are now just as brazen in targeting activists outside or outside. disrupting their activities.

Veteran Egyptian activists welcomed the opportunity for the world to understand more about how they are regularly treated. “When Egypt was chosen as the host, some people wanted to campaign against it or choose another venue, we said, don’t do that. Then some voices outside Egypt wanted to call on activists to boycott the police because of the human rights situation in Egypt, we begged them not to. Because we needed it. we needed attention, we needed solidarity, we needed companionship.” said Head of the Egyptian Initiative for Personal Rights, Hossam Bahgat. Bahgat was persecuted by the Egyptian state for decades through arrests and trials for his human rights activities, and is banned from leaving Egypt.

For those attending the conference, especially senior Egyptian activists, the surveillance was blatant. One delegate provided a photo of a plainclothes member of Egypt’s security services openly filming Sana Seif, the sister of jailed British-Egyptian hunger striker Alaa Abd el-Fattah, on her phone as she held a press conference at Cop27. Pro-government MP Amr Darvish tried disrupt Saif’s press conference.

A member of civil society from Egypt said that surveillance and intimidation “send a signal to everyone that we have to behave, otherwise. It is really very difficult,” he said. “Unlike other police officers, everyone seems to be scared because of this surveillance. There’s less activity, you don’t feel the spirit of the event, the drive against climate activism and big polluters.”

He added that he was concerned about the number of Egyptian security personnel present there Policeman 27:00 a conference center and an official ‘blue zone’ area where the area is normally controlled by the UN body overseeing the conference. The result, he added, was that groups felt unable to freely discuss climate activism or connect with like-minded groups, the reasons for their participation in the first place. “Everybody’s scared, and this huge security presence makes people self-censor,” he said.

Another visitor described how pressure from Cop27 security officers affected their ability to move freely during the conference. “One of our group today described their suspicion that security guards were standing nearby and appeared to be recording people’s conversations. In a short period of time, these guards were following them wherever they went,” they said.

“We also had a meeting in a room we were assigned to, but we tried to move to a more open part of the meeting place instead of talking because the guards were very attentively sitting right behind us. They told us we should stay in the room and keep talking there. It felt very invasive.”

Some attendees reported problems even before arriving in Egypt. The climate activist from Europe said that when he tried to check in on his Egyptair plane, he was told there was a problem and that he would face further questions.

At the airport, the activist said he was questioned by a manager of state-owned Egyptair about petitions he had previously signed calling for improved human rights in the country. “He said that I deal with matters of national interest for Egypt and that he wants to know what I will do in Egypt, what I will do there and whether I will face riots,” the activist said.

The manager eventually allowed the man to board the plane, but warned him that if he did anything to “interfere” with Egypt, he would be banned from entering the country. “It was disturbing and quite unpleasant,” said the activist.

Cop27 participants also reported that their hotels extort more money after booking rooms. An activist arriving in Sharm el-Sheikh was told she would have to pay an extra $1,800 (£1,580) for her week’s stay at her hotel if she attended Cop27, despite having already paid the pre-agreed asking price of $1,000. Unable to pay this extra fee, the man opted to stay at his hotel as a tourist rather than attend the conference.

A document released by the Egyptian Hotel Association, seen by the Guardian, requires five-star hotels in Sharm el-Sheikh to charge delegates a minimum of $500 per night. Three-star hotels should charge $200 per night, the document says. Nigerian civil society activist on Twitter that some Cop27 delegates had to sleep in a bus station because they could not afford the sudden price hikes, while others complained that their hotels had been cancelled.

A young delegate who was invited by Egypt’s sports ministry to attend Cop27 with his organization told the Guardian he cried after waiting five hours outside a hotel room with other visitors shortly after arriving in Sharm El Sheikh. . The sheikh, and most of those he was waiting with, slept on couches or on the floor in the hotel lobby. He described accommodation issues as a “huge barrier” to being able to attend the conference.

“It’s super exhausting,” he said. “It feels like we’re literally worthless and it doesn’t matter if we’re sleeping on the street. It shows that all this is just for show.”

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