Human Rights Watch says the Egyptian government oppresses local environmental groups

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On Monday, Human Rights Watch (HRW) said that the Egyptian government has severely restricted the ability of local environmental groups to operate independently, explaining that such restrictions threaten Egypt’s ability to meet its environmental and climate action obligations while hosting COP 27 in November. “The Egyptian government has imposed arbitrary obstacles that have weakened local environmental groups, forcing some activists to flee into exile and others away from important work,” said Richard Pearshouse, Director of Environment and Human Rights Division at HRW. “The government should immediately lift its oppressive restrictions on independent NGOs.”

The rights group said that it conducted interviews last June with activists, academics and journalists working on environmental issues in Egypt. While some are currently working for non-governmental groups, others have stopped for safety or security reasons or have left the country, it added. Those interviewed by the group described the space for independent work as having declined sharply since the government of President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi took power in 2014. They emphasized that harassment and intimidation tactics created a general atmosphere of fear.

These experiences reflect similar tactics that the Egyptian authorities have used against independent local and international organizations since 2014 as part of a relentless crackdown on civil society, according to HRW. It quoted workers from rights and environmental groups critical of the government as saying they were concerned about participating publicly at COP 27 due to fears of reprisals.