COP27 in Egypt: stop greenwashing, free human rights defenders

Update: November 4 — Access Now is further increasing the pressure, and joins human rights organizations in demanding leaders and powerbrokers from across the globe — including the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, the UK government, and civil society — take action to ensure Alaa and all those arrested and detained solely for exercising their rights are immediately released.

November 3: Egyptian President Abdel Fattah El-Sisi must free Alaa Abd El-Fattah, a British-Egyptian activist, and all human rights defenders and political prisoners detained for exercising their fundamental rights. All government representatives attending COP27 in Egypt must do everything in their power to ensure their swift release.

In a blatant violation of human rights, Alaa, along with tens of thousands of activists and dissidents has long been persecuted by a government now opening its doors to the largest climate change conference in the world — COP27. Climate change is a human rights issue, and President El-Sisi must demonstrate he takes human rights seriously. 

“President El-Sisi hosting COP27 is hypocrisy incarnate,” said Marwa Fatafta, MENA Policy and Advocacy Manager at Access Now. “Alaa and activists from across Egypt exist in a human rights vacuum, but if the government of Egypt is now purporting to elevate human rights through this global climate change conference, it must seize this opportunity to free Alaa and all activists.”

Against a backdrop of persecution lasting more than 15 years, Alaa has used his body as a tool for protest. The activist stated that after an extended hunger strike, he will eliminate water from his diet beginning at the start of COP27, November 6. The human body needs water to survive. 

As a British citizen, Alaa should be protected by his own government. As a human being, he should be protected by all governments,” said Kassem Mnejja, MENA Campaigner at Access Now. “Alaa will be consuming no food or water, and could potentially face death before the end of the conference. This is an extremely serious situation, and US President Joe Biden, France’s Emmanuel Macron, and other world leaders will be at COP27 and must use their influence to put an end to Alaa’s brutal and unjust imprisonment.”

Egypt’s human rights record is abysmal, and assaults on civic space and people’s freedoms are escalating. From attacks on press freedom and online freedom of expression, to cracking down on civil society organizations, activists, and others for utilizing social media, locking people up under unrestricted pretrial detention, blocking people from travelling abroad, and surveilling their activities. This week, authorities detained Ajit Rajagopal, an Indian environmental activist attending COP27, while on a peaceful march from Cairo to Sharm El Sheikh. In a few days, leaders and activists from across the world will gather to discuss the future of the planet amidst the ongoing crackdown and increasing restrictions on civic space

A message to Egyptian President Abdel Fattah El-Sisi, the UK government, and all government representatives attending COP27: free Alaa and all activists today.