Climate Justice Advocates Condemn Arrests Before COP27

“You Can’t Have Climate Justice without Human Rights,” Say Advocates Before Cop27.!

Prior to the COP27 UN climate conference, around 70 people were imprisoned in Egypt, while Indian climate activist Ajit Rajagopal was temporarily held while en route to the summit on foot.

From November 6 to November 18, Sharm el-Sheikh, a resort town on the Red Sea, will host COP27. However, some environmental and human rights organizations have voiced worries about Egypt’s human rights record and how that interferes with civil society’s ability to attend the summit at a key time for the international effort to combat the climate disaster.

Why did the Egyptian government ask to host the Climate Summit when the security measures will prevent even the most basic protest actions and demonstrations against environmental crises? In a statement, the Egyptian Commission for Rights and Freedoms (ECRF) denounced Rajagopal’s detention.

According to the director of the ECRF, Mohamed Lotfy, at least 67 persons have been detained in Cairo and other Egyptian towns as of Monday due to social media calls for demonstrations on November 11 in support of the climate summit. Since 2013, when the then-army chief and current President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi overthrew Muslim Brotherhood leader Mohamed Mursi and assumed office, public protest has basically been banned in Egypt. Following a wave of protests that saw thousands of people imprisoned in 2019, there was another crackdown.

According to The Guardian, the Egyptian government has stated that protests related to COP27 will only be permitted in a designated location separate from the conference center.

Climate Justice Advocates Condemn Arrests Before COP27

Greta Thunberg is among the more than 1,000 environmental and human rights organizations and activists who have signed a petition urging Egypt to release all people unfairly jailed before the conference and to make more space for civil society.

The detention of Rajagopal, however, did not bode well for the civil society’s participation in the meeting. The Guardian said that the activist and architect was arrested on Sunday, the first day of an eight-day walk between Cairo and Sharm el-Sheikh. He was taking part in the Walk for the Planet initiative, which, according to ECRF, was launched across Africa in connection with COP27 to increase public awareness of greenhouse gas emissions and to advocate for more sustainable options.

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When Rajagopal called his friend and attorney Makarios Lahti from a checkpoint, Lahti was also held. Despite not receiving food, drink, or the chance to make phone calls while they were being held, the two were released on Monday, according to Al Jazeera. Rajagopal was imprisoned for a total of more than 24 hours, which is illegal. Rajagopal declared he would not continue his walk after being freed, but he will continue to seek accreditation to attend COP27, according to Reuters.

Advocates have claimed for years that human rights are necessary for climate justice. The episode was described on Twitter by human rights attorney Mai El-Sadany as an illustration of why in Egypt.

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Rajagopal’s experience, according to Mina Thabet, PEN International’s Middle East and North Africa coordinator and an exiled human rights expert, demonstrated how repressive the Egyptian government has grown to be to The Guardian.

The regime wants to exploit the summit to cover up its appalling record on human rights, but western nations need to take a stand right away. Human rights and climate talks are inextricably linked, according to Thabet.

Climate Justice Advocates Condemn Arrests Before COP27

Requests for comments on the arrests were not met with any response from Egypt’s interior ministry or its COP27 chair, according to Reuters.