Ahead of COP27, Open Civic Space and Release Everyone Arbitrarily Detained in Egypt

Date : Monday, 26 September, 2022
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In the run up to the UN Climate Change Conference 2022 (COP27) taking place in Egypt’s resort town of Sharm El Sheikh from 7 to18 November 2022, the undersigned organizations, groups and individuals note with great concern the human rights situation in Egypt and in particular the government’s restrictions on the rights to freedom of expression, association and peaceful assembly, which risk to undermine a successful, inclusive and participatory climate summit.

Advancing climate justice demands an inclusive, holistic approach to environmental policy that embeds human rights and tackles systemic problems, including historically rooted social injustices, ecological destruction, abuses by businesses, corruption and impunity, and social and economic inequality. The strongest voices across the world pushing back against these systemic problems, and in favor of more meaningful and ambitious climate action, have come from civil society.

We voice our support to the call made by the UN Special Rapporteur on the rights to freedom of peaceful assembly and of association: that the work of civil society be recognized, publicly and at the highest levels, as essential to the advancement of climate action and just transition. Moreover, we stress the importance of the right to freedom of expression and independent reporting to foster efforts to address the climate crisis.

We emphasize that effective climate action is not possible without open civic space. As host of COP27, Egypt risks compromising the success of the summit if it does not urgently address ongoing arbitrarily restrictions on civil society.

We call on Egypt to ensure that civil society organizations, activists, and communities can meaningfully participate in all discussions and activities on climate and just-transition policy development and implementation at all levels of decision-making without fear of reprisals. Authorities must put in place transparent and inclusive processes to ensure that everyone, including women, Indigenous peoples and local communities, workers, youth, children, persons with disabilities, and other groups facing marginalization or discrimination, is provided with equal opportunities to effectively participate in climate decision-making.

We also call on Egypt to end the prosecutions of civil society activists and organizations and guarantee space for civil society—including human rights defenders—to work without fear of intimidation, harassment, arrest, detention, or any other form of reprisal, including by releasing of unjustly jailed human rights defenders, lifting arbitrarily travel bans and asset freezes and closing all politically-motivated cases against activists targeted for their human rights work.

Access to information is central to effective participation. To this end, we call on the Egyptian authorities to immediately end the arbitrarily blocking of websites and ensure access inside the country to the hundreds of independent media, human rights organizations and other blocked websites. We also call for the immediate release of all journalists who have been imprisoned solely for doing their job, and an end to restrictions on media and digital spheres.

We recognize that a select number of journalists, human rights defenders, and other individuals who had been arbitrarily detained were conditionally released in recent months. We urge the Egyptian authorities to immediately and unconditionally release all those held simply for peacefully exercising their human rights, implementing criteria set by local NGOs for these releases: fairnesstransparencyinclusiveness, and urgency.

Preparations for COP27 are taking place against the backdrop of an ongoing and deep-rooted human rights crisis in Egypt. The Egyptian authorities have for years employed draconian laws, including laws on counter terrorism, cyber crimes, and civil society, to stifle all forms of peaceful dissent and shut down civic space. We note that, under the current government of President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi, thousands continue to be arbitrarily detained without a legal basis, following grossly unfair trials, or solely for peacefully exercising their human rights. Thousands are held in prolonged per-trial detention on the basis of spurious terrorism and national security accusations. Among those arbitrarily detained are dozens of journalists targeted for their media work, social media users punished for sharing critical online content, women convicted on morality-related charges for making Tik Tok videos, and members of religious minorities accused of blasphemy.

Prisoners are held in detention conditions that violate the absolute prohibition of torture and other ill-treatment, and since President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi came to power hundreds have died in custody amid reports of denial of healthcare and other abuse. Egypt remains one of the world’s top executioners, executing 107 in 2020 to 83 in 2021, with at least 356 people sentenced to death in 2021, many following grossly unfair trials including by emergency courts. The crisis of impunity has emboldened Egyptian security forces to carry out extra-judicial executions and other unlawful killing, enforced disappearances and torture with no fear of consequences.

The Egyptian authorities must take meaningful steps to address the human rights crisis, including by lifting restrictions of civic space and ending their crackdown on peaceful dissent.

Led by

1. Association for Freedom of Thought and Expression (AFTE)

2. Cairo Institute for Human Rights Studies (CIHRS)

3. Committee for Justice (CFJ)

4. Egyptian Front for Human Rights (EFHR)

5. Egyptian Initiative for Personal Rights (EIPR)

6. EgyptWide for Human Rights

7. El Nadeem Center Against Violence and Torture

8. Refugees Platform in Egypt (RPE)

9. Sinai Foundation for Human Rights

10. The Egyptian Commission for Rights and Freedoms (ECRF)

11. The Freedom Initiative (FI)

12. Egyptian Human Rights Forum

Organisations

  1. 350 Aotearoa
  2. AAA Accountancy UK
  3. AbibiNsroma Foundation ANF
  4. Access Now
  5. Aid/Watch
  6. Amnesty International
  7. Arab Network for Knowledge about Human rights
  8. Arayara.org
  9. Asia Pacific Network of Environment Defenders
  10. ASSOCIATION DES AMIS DE LA NATURE AAN
  11. Association des jeunes pour le développement du Ouaddai
  12. Avli Initiative
  13. BankTrack
  14. CADIRE CAMEROON ASSOCIATION
  15. CAN Latin America
  16. CAN Tanzania
  17. CAN-Japan
  18. Center for Environmental Concerns – Philippines Inc.
  19. Center for International Environmental Law
  20. Centre for Citizens Conserving Environment & Management (CECIC)
  21. Climate & Sustainability
  22. Climate Justice Alliance
  23. CNCD-11.11.11
  24. Coal Action Network Aotearoa
  25. Coalition Marocaine pour la Justice Climatique (CMJC)
  26. CODEPINK
  27. Collectif Sénégalais des Africaines pour la Promotion de l’Éducation Relative à l’Environnement ( COSAPERE)
  28. Commission on Environment and Climate Justice – International League of Peoples’ Struggle
  29. Coordination des Associations et des Particuliers pour la Liberté de Conscience
  30. Democracy for the Arab World Now (DAWN)
  31. DIGNITY – Danish Institute Against Torture
  32. Eastbourne Solidarity
  33. EcoEquity
  34. Ecologistas en Acción
  35. Egyptian Americans For Justice
  1. Emonyo Yefwe International
  2. Environmental conflict mediation and Women Development
  3. Environmental Justice Foundation
  4. Equidad de Genero: Ciudadanía, Trabajo y Familia
  5. Fastenaktion
  6. Finnish Development NGOs – Fingo
  7. FOKUS – Forum for Women and Development
  8. FORUM DES ENGAGES POUR LE DÉVELOPPEMENT DURABLE
  9. Forum des Jeunes
  10. Franciscan Action Network
  11. Friends of the Earth England, Wales and Northern Ireland
  12. Friends of the Earth Germany/ BUND
  13. Friends of the Earth Scotland
  14. G.R.A.M.E.D
  15. GAIA – Global Alliance for Incinerator Alternatives
  16. Gastivists Collective
  17. GenderCC-Women for Climate Justice e.V.
  18. Global Justice Now
  19. Heinrich Boell Foundation
  20. Human Rights Without Frontiers
  21. HuMENA for Human Rights and Civic Engagement
  22. ILPS Commission 10
  23. Indigenous Peoples’ Organisation-Australia
  24. International Indigenous Peoples Movement for Self-Determination and Liberation (IPMSDL)
  25. International Peace Bureau
  26. International Service for Human Rights (ISHR)
  27. Kabataan para sa Tribung Pilipino (Katribu Youth)
  28. Karamoja Go Green
  29. Klima Action Malaysia (KAMY)
  30. Kvinna till Kvinna Foundation
  31. Ligue pour la solidarité congolaise
  32. Liverpool City Region Climate Justice Coalition
  33. Maryknoll Office for Global Concerns
  34. Merdeka West Papua Support Network
  35. Migrante International
  1. Minority Rights Group International
  2. Mom Loves Taiwan Association
  3. NAJU (Youth Association for the Protection of Nature)
  4. NDEO
  5. NEW HOPE FOR THE POOR
  6. North-East Affected Area Development Society (NEADS)
  7. Observatório do Clima
  8. Observatory for the Protection of the Environment and Historical Monument
  9. Physicians for Social Responsibility Pennsylvania
  10. Protection International
  11. Reacción Climática
  12. Saharawi Active Youth
  13. Sankalpa Darchula Nepal, South Asia
  14. SERUNI
  15. Sisters of Charity Federation
  16. Sisters of Charity of Seton Hill
  17. Somali Youth Development Foundation (SYDF)
  18. Sukaar Welfare Organization
  19. The Green Youth Movement (DGUB) (Denmark)
  20. The Resilient40
  21. The SANE Collective
  22. Tipping Point UK
  23. Transnational Institute
  24. Tulele Peisa Inc
  25. UNISC International
  26. US Committe to End Political Repression in Egypt
  27. Vikas Adhyayan Kendra
  28. War on Want
  29. Water Justice and Gender
  30. Women Engage for a Common Future
  31. World Friends for Africa Burkina Faso/  Membership Organiser at CAN West and Central Africa
  32. World Organisation Against Torture (OMCT)  in the framework of the Observatory for the Protection of Human Rights Defenders
  33. Yorkshire and the Humber Climate Justice Coalition
  34. Youth for Development and Human Rights Advancement

Individuals

  1. Ahti Tolvanen
  2. Akouete FOLLY QUMEGAWU
  3. Alia Hammad
  4. Andreas Moesch
  5. Aurelie Buytaert
  6. Basila Maya
  7. Bed Awa-ao
  8. Bernard Barré
  9. Beverley Binfield
  10. Beverly L. Longid
  11. Billon
  12. Bjørn Olav Utvik
  13. Carmen fulco
  14. Céline Lebrun Shaath
  15. Cesar Bollecer Jr
  16. Chanchana
  17. Chris  Preston
  18. Chris Vrettos
  19. Christiane Hildebrandt
  20. Christina Maria Cecilia M. Sayson
  21. Christine-Anne
  22. corinna baudisch
  23. Daniel Leclerc
  24. David Jesero
  25. David Robertson
  26. Dayoon Kim
  27. Dr Oye Ideki
  28. Elle Glenny
  29. Elondra Eichenberger
  30. Francesca Biancani
  31. Francesco Correale
  32. G. Andrea Teti
  1. Gabriele Köhler
  2. Geoffrey Mock
  3. Gine Zwart
  4. Hendrik Voss
  5. Isabelle Sain
  6. Ivan Hortal Sánchez
  7. Jeremy Adeba
  8. John Chalcraft
  9. Jorge Martínez
  10. Josh Hughes
  11. Julia Horn
  12. Julian Hirschmann
  13. Kerstin Doerenbruch
  14. Komla Bassah
  15. Lenka Hélová
  16. Lin Patterson
  17. Lorena Cotza
  18. Lydia Darby
  19. Mamadou SYLLA
  20. Mamta Lukram
  21. Manuel Leick-Jonard
  22. Mariam TOURE KEITA
  23. Marie Lecocq
  24. Mario Caffera
  25. Mark Doran
  26. martin mantxo
  27. Martin Vilela
  28. Mehdy BELABBAS
  29. Melony
  30. Mia Bradić
  31. Michael Barkley
  32. Michael Ineichen
  1. Michael Taylor
  2. Michel Vanhoorne
  3. Mounir Satouri
  4. Narasimha Reddy Donthi
  5. Natalie Rivas
  6. Natasha
  7. Ndivile Mokoena
  8. nelia lauper
  9. Rachel Allen
  10. Ramy Shaath
  11. Rosa van Driel
  12. Roshan Lal
  13. Salma El Hosseiny
  14. sarah sakouti
  15. Shaimaa Elbanna
  16. Shaon Zeiler
  17. Shima
  18. Simone Lennerz
  19. Sofie Bech Larsen
  20. Sophie Maziane
  21. Stephen Crozier
  22. Steve Ongerth
  23. Ted Swedenburg
  24. Veena Balakrishnan
  25. Yazan Badran
  26. Yohei Takata
  27. Christa Salamandra
  28. Esha Shah
  29. Hugo Alan
  30. John Schaefer
  31. Ron Smith
  32. Sandra Carter
  33. 6 publicly anonymous

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Joint NGO letter on the EU’s macro-financial assistance to Egypt Joint NGO letter on the EU’s macro-financial assistance to Egypt and human rights We, the undersigned Egyptian, regional and international human rights organisations, urge the European Commission and member states to uphold international and EU law to ensure that macro-financial assistance to Egypt granted under EU regulations secures concrete, measurable, structural and timebound human rights progress and reforms in the country. Since the 2013 military ousting of former president Mohamed Morsi, Egypt has been ruled with an iron fist. Authorities have brutally and systematically silenced peaceful dissent, nearly wiped-out independent media and civil society, repressed political opposition, adopted and enacted repressive legislation, jailed tens of thousands of actual or perceived critics and severely undermined the independence of the judiciary and of the legal profession. With very little civic, judicial, or parliamentary scrutiny, the authorities have faced virtually no accountability for their repressive policies and actions. In turn, this has contributed to the government’s failure to respect, protect and fulfil people’s social and economic rights, leading to setbacks for those most affected by the recurring economic crises in the country. From February 2024 onwards, Egypt’s donors including the United Arab Emirates, the International Monetary Fund, the World Bank, the United Kingdom and the European Union provided or pledged around 57 billion USD in grants and loans. As part of this process, donors should ensure that the Egyptian authorities pursue and effectively implement reforms that improve respect for human rights alongside greater transparency and accountability. Donors must also ensure that economic and fiscal measures implemented as part of these programs do not contribute to the further erosion of people’s economic and social rights, especially in light of the continuing rise in poverty rates since the adoption of the first IMF program in 2016, as well as the Egyptian government’s inadequate spending levels on social protection, health and education. Any agreed macroeconomic reforms must reflect and uphold the legal obligations of all parties with regard to economic and social rights, notably in the areas of labour rights and environmental justice, and corporate accountability. We believe that structural reforms to strengthen rule of law, guarantee fair trials, open civic space, uphold the rights to freedom of expression, peaceful assembly and association and media freedom, and release all those arbitrarily detained, are crucial. Not only would they comply with Egypt’s constitution and international human rights obligations, but they would also address some of the root causes of Egypt’s financial and economic instability. This instability has severely impacted the economic and social rights of millions of people in Egypt, who will ultimately carry the burden of repaying Egypt’s debts, particularly those in vulnerable and marginalised situations. We note that EU regulations require that recipients of macro-financial assistance “adhere to the respect of human rights and effective democratic mechanisms, including a multi-party parliamentary system and the rule of law,” while the European Council stipulated that a precondition for granting the Union’s macro-financial assistance is that “Egypt continues to make concrete and credible steps towards respecting effective democratic mechanisms, including a multi-party parliamentary system, and the rule of law, and guaranteeing respect for human rights.” However, what those “concrete and credible steps” should be is not defined in the Commission’s proposal. As the Commission and Egyptian authorities negotiate Memorandum of Understandings (MoUs) to regulate the disbursement of EU funds to Egypt up to 2027, we urge the European Commission, Council and Parliament to ensure that: 1) The MoUs lay out a roadmap for structural reforms, with public, clear, specific and timebound indicators, targets and benchmarks for Egypt to meet its human rights obligations. 2) Egyptian authorities immediately and unconditionally release all those detained solely for the peaceful exercise of their human rights including the rights to freedom of expression, association and peaceful assembly. 3) Egyptian authorities open civic and political space, by respecting the rights to freedom of expression, association and peaceful assembly, including before, during and after the 2025 parliamentary elections. If these steps are met the EU’s macro-financial assistance will contribute to concrete and lasting progress on human rights and the rule of law in Egypt, which is indispensable to ensure transparency and accountability, end impunity and help prevent the recurrence of economic crises in the country. Failing to set human rights benchmarks would instead be a blank check for further abuses and repression in Egypt. Signatories Amnesty International Association for Freedom of Thought and Expression (AFTE) Cairo Institute for Human Rights Studies Committee for Justice Egyptian Commission for Rights and Freedoms (ECRF) Egyptian Front for Human Rights (EFHR) Egyptian Human Rights Forum (EHRF) Egyptian Initiative for Personal Rights (EIPR) EgyptWide for Human Rights EuroMed Rights International Federation for Human Rights (FIDH) Human Rights Watch Middle East Democracy Center (MEDC) Minority Rights Group Refugees Platform In Egypt (RPE) Tahrir Institute for Middle East Policy (TIMEP)Joint NGO letter on the EU’s macro-financial assistance to Egypt and human rights We, the undersigned Egyptian, regional and international human rights organisations, urge the European Commission and member states to uphold international and EU law to ensure that macro-financial assistance to Egypt granted under EU regulations secures concrete, measurable, structural and timebound human rights progress and reforms in the country. Since the 2013 military ousting of former president Mohamed Morsi, Egypt has been ruled with an iron fist. Authorities have brutally and systematically silenced peaceful dissent, nearly wiped-out independent media and civil society, repressed political opposition, adopted and enacted repressive legislation, jailed tens of thousands of actual or perceived critics and severely undermined the independence of the judiciary and of the legal profession. With very little civic, judicial, or parliamentary scrutiny, the authorities have faced virtually no accountability for their repressive policies and actions. In turn, this has contributed to the government’s failure to respect, protect and fulfil people’s social and economic rights, leading to setbacks for those most affected by the recurring economic crises in the country. From February 2024 onwards, Egypt’s donors including the United Arab Emirates, the International Monetary Fund, the World Bank, the United Kingdom and the European Union provided or pledged around 57 billion USD in grants and loans. As part of this process, donors should ensure that the Egyptian authorities pursue and effectively implement reforms that improve respect for human rights alongside greater transparency and accountability. Donors must also ensure that economic and fiscal measures implemented as part of these programs do not contribute to the further erosion of people’s economic and social rights, especially in light of the continuing rise in poverty rates since the adoption of the first IMF program in 2016, as well as the Egyptian government’s inadequate spending levels on social protection, health and education. Any agreed macroeconomic reforms must reflect and uphold the legal obligations of all parties with regard to economic and social rights, notably in the areas of labour rights and environmental justice, and corporate accountability. We believe that structural reforms to strengthen rule of law, guarantee fair trials, open civic space, uphold the rights to freedom of expression, peaceful assembly and association and media freedom, and release all those arbitrarily detained, are crucial. Not only would they comply with Egypt’s constitution and international human rights obligations, but they would also address some of the root causes of Egypt’s financial and economic instability. This instability has severely impacted the economic and social rights of millions of people in Egypt, who will ultimately carry the burden of repaying Egypt’s debts, particularly those in vulnerable and marginalised situations. We note that EU regulations require that recipients of macro-financial assistance “adhere to the respect of human rights and effective democratic mechanisms, including a multi-party parliamentary system and the rule of law,” while the European Council stipulated that a precondition for granting the Union’s macro-financial assistance is that “Egypt continues to make concrete and credible steps towards respecting effective democratic mechanisms, including a multi-party parliamentary system, and the rule of law, and guaranteeing respect for human rights.” However, what those “concrete and credible steps” should be is not defined in the Commission’s proposal. As the Commission and Egyptian authorities negotiate Memorandum of Understandings (MoUs) to regulate the disbursement of EU funds to Egypt up to 2027, we urge the European Commission, Council and Parliament to ensure that: 1) The MoUs lay out a roadmap for structural reforms, with public, clear, specific and timebound indicators, targets and benchmarks for Egypt to meet its human rights obligations. 2) Egyptian authorities immediately and unconditionally release all those detained solely for the peaceful exercise of their human rights including the rights to freedom of expression, association and peaceful assembly. 3) Egyptian authorities open civic and political space, by respecting the rights to freedom of expression, association and peaceful assembly, including before, during and after the 2025 parliamentary elections. If these steps are met the EU’s macro-financial assistance will contribute to concrete and lasting progress on human rights and the rule of law in Egypt, which is indispensable to ensure transparency and accountability, end impunity and help prevent the recurrence of economic crises in the country. Failing to set human rights benchmarks would instead be a blank check for further abuses and repression in Egypt. Signatories Amnesty International Association for Freedom of Thought and Expression (AFTE) Cairo Institute for Human Rights Studies Committee for Justice Egyptian Commission for Rights and Freedoms (ECRF) Egyptian Front for Human Rights (EFHR) Egyptian Human Rights Forum (EHRF) Egyptian Initiative for Personal Rights (EIPR) EgyptWide for Human Rights EuroMed Rights International Federation for Human Rights (FIDH) Human Rights Watch Middle East Democracy Center (MEDC) Minority Rights Group Refugees Platform In Egypt (RPE) Tahrir Institute for Middle East Policy (TIMEP)and human rights

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