Over 50 US lawmakers urge Biden to hold Egypt to account on human rights at COP27

Over 50 US lawmakers urge Biden to hold Egypt to account on human rights at COP27
Senior US lawmakers have written to President Joe Biden urging him to use the COP27 climate conference in Sharm al-Sheikh to draw attention to Egypt's poor human rights record.
3 min read
03 November, 2022
In the run-up to COP27, Egyptian authorities said they will limit demonstrations to 'designated areas' [Getty/file photo]

Dozens of US lawmakers have written to American President Joe Biden urging him to hold Egypt to account for its poor human rights record during the upcoming COP27 in Sharm al-Sheikh. 

Signed by Chris Muphy and David Cicilline, both Chairman of US Foreign Affairs Subcommittees, a letter from lawmakers - dated 2 November - outlined why the climate conference was an "opportunity" for the US to raise concerns over Egypt's restrictions on civil society. 

The two-page document, signed by 56 politicians, specifically called for the release of political activist Alaa Abdel Fattah, who will resume a full hunger strike during the climate summit.

They also called for the release for Ahmed Douma, Mohamed el Baqer, Mohamed "Oxygen" Ibrahim, Abdel Moneim Aboul Fotouh, Seif and Safwan Thabet, and Ahmed Amasha. Egypt has detained thousands of political prisoners since a 2013 coup overthrew Egypt's first democratically-elected government.

"We urge the Administration to engage the Egyptian government to allow the full participation of civil society throughout this year's summit," the letter read. 

"The COP27 conference presents not just an opportunity for the world to come together to confront climate change through collective action, but also brings a responsibility to ensure that commitments and policies are inclusive of all members of society."

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COP27, taking place between 6 and 18 November, has been dubbed the "implementation COP" as representatives from more than 190 countries will gather to discuss how climate pledges can be extended and enacted.

Currently, if the combined climate commitments of the 193 Parties under the landmark Paris Agreement were met, global warming would still not be limited to the 1.5 degrees centigrade required to advert environmental catastrophe, according to the UN.  

While the letter from US lawmakers recognised Egypt is trying to play a leading role when it comes to addressing climate financing between developed and developing nations, it questioned whether Cairo could be a creditable host given its well-documented history of arbitrary detentions, extrajudicial killings, and a massive crackdown on political dissent. 

This view has been echoed by a number of leading human rights organisations, including Human Rights Watch, who called on COP27 participants to ensure Cairo allows for "full and meaningful participation of civil society". 

Already, however, there has been criticism over Egypt's plans to limit climate protests to "designated areas" and requirements that activists must submit a proposal to demonstrate 48 hours beforehand. 

The US and Egypt have a longstanding relationship based on what the State Department says are "mutual interests in Middle East peace and stability, economic opportunity, and regional security".