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Egypt pressed to make human rights move before climate summit

Egyptian human rights groups are calling for their country to open civic space and free political prisoners before hosting the COP27 summit.

It follows a report from Amnesty International which said Egypt was in the throes of a “human rights crisis”.

Human Rights Watch (HRW) has said Egypt has severely curtailed the work of environmental groups. Officials in Cairo said the report was “misleading”.

The UN Climate Change Conference takes place in Sharm el-Sheikh in November.

More than 100 international non-governmental organisation (NGOs) have already signed a petition organised by the Egyptian Human Rights Coalition, which consists of 12 groups.

“We emphasise that effective climate action is not possible without open civic space,” a petition launched by the coalition says. “As host of COP27, Egypt risks compromising the success of the summit if it does not urgently address ongoing arbitrary restrictions on civil society.

“Moreover, we stress the importance of the right to freedom of expression and independent reporting to foster efforts to address the climate crisis.”

In a joint statement in July, three dozen groups expressed concern that Egypt would largely maintain its prohibition on protests during the conference aimed at slowing climate change.

Under Egypt’s President Abdul Fattah al-Sissi, there has been a widespread crackdown on dissent. Rights groups estimate the country has had as many as 60,000 political prisoners, many detained without trial.

They say that activists are routinely intimidated and that new laws make it practically impossible for many civil society groups to function.

“You will have activists from everywhere in the world coming to COP, but Egyptian activists are either blocked from going or they’re in jail,” a leading human rights campaigner in Cairo told the BBC, asking not to be named for fear of reprisal.

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