The Government of Egypt, a country that will host the next COP27 climate change summit in November, has restricted environmental activism, hindering and preventing the work of environmental organizations with practices that include harassment and intimidation, Human Rights Watch denounced Monday ( HRW).
The human rights defense organization has published a report in which, based on the testimony of 13 activists, academics, scientists and journalists related to environmental issues, it describes “a drastic reduction in the space for independent work on the environment and climate since President Abdelfatah al-Sisi took office in 2014”.
The “arbitrary obstacles” imposed by the government “have weakened local environmental groups, forcing some activists into exile and others to avoid meaningful work,” HRW Environment Director Richard Pearshouse said in a statement.
In addition, the NGO charged, “they violate the rights of assembly and association and threaten Egypt’s ability to meet its commitments to the environment and action against climate change,” the NGO charged.
Several of those interviewed, who agreed to speak on condition of anonymity to preserve their safety, denounced a pattern of harassment towards those who dealt with sensitive environmental issues for the Government, with intimidating calls, exhaustive controls and interrogations when entering or leaving the country and even impediments to travel abroad.
HRW detected that the most sensitive issues are those that have to do with the government’s passivity to protect the rights of citizens against the damage caused by corporate interests, as well as with the environmental impacts of the “opaque” military businesses.
The latter include everything from extractive activities to water bottling plants, through cement factories or infrastructure projects such as the new administrative capital that is being built on the outskirts of Cairo.
Other forms of repression against environmentalists, similar to that exercised against all types of activism, are the obstacles of non-governmental organizations to register as such, the fear that the people interviewed during the fieldwork will be detained or the restrictions on financing. .
Since 2014, HRW recalls, several laws have been passed that punish up to the death penalty for receiving money from foreign sources if it is considered that the money is intended to harm the “national interest” or undermine public security.
As a result of this harassment, the report concludes, many environmental activists have left the country, reduced their activism or abandoned it altogether.
Many organizations have closed and in their place others have emerged whose work is in line with the Government’s priorities and works on non-political aspects such as garbage collection, recycling or renewable energies.
In addition, he adds, members of important environmental groups are wary of publicly participating in COP27 because they fear future reprisals.