UN probes Egypt police misconduct claims at climate talks

SHARM EL-SHEIKH, Egypt (AP) — The United Nations says it is investigating allegations of misconduct by Egyptian police officers providing security at this year’s international climate talks.

This follows claims that attendees of events at the German pavilion for the COP27 summit were photographed and filmed after Germany hosted an event there with the sister of a jailed Egyptian pro-democracy activist, Alaa Abdel Fattah, who also holds U.K. citizenship.

In a statement provided Sunday to The Associated Press, the U.N. climate office confirmed that some of the security officers working in the part of the venue designated as United Nations territory come from the host country, Egypt.

This was due to the “scale and complexity of providing security at a large scale event” such as the COP27 climate talks, the global body said. It added that their work takes place “under the direction of the operations of the U.N. Department for Safety and Security (UN DSS).”

“The security officers provided for this COP by the host country are from the national police,” it said. “They are here to assist in fortifying the venue and ensuring the safety and security of all participants.”

“UN DSS has been made aware of allegations of the Code of Conduct violations and is investigating these reports,” the climate office told The AP.

Germany’s Foreign Ministry said Saturday that it was in contact with Egyptian authorities about the incidents at its pavilion.

“We expect all participants in the U.N. climate conference to be able to work and negotiate under safe conditions,” it said in a statement. “This is not just true for the German but for all delegations, as well as representatives of civil society and the media.”

Egyptian officials didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment.

Egypt’s hosting of the international summit has trained a spotlight on its human rights record.

The government has engaged in a widespread crackdown on dissent in recent years, detaining some 60,000 people, many without trial, according to a 2019 tally by Human Rights Watch.

Under President Abdel Fattah el-Sissi, authorities have also intimidated and barred independent media and local organizations from operating. A prominent imprisoned activist, Alaa Abdel-Fattah, started a hunger and water strike on the first day of the conference to call attention to pressure for his own and other prisoners’ release.

Abdel-Fattah rose to fame during the 2011 pro-democracy uprisings that spread through the Middle East, and in Egypt he amplified calls for an end to police brutality. He has spent a total of nine years behind bars and is currently serving a 5-year sentence for re-sharing a Facebook post about the death of another detainee.

On Sunday, Abdel-Fattah’s lawyer Khaled Ali said in a social media post that he had not been allowed to visit the activist that afternoon, despite having obtained permission from the country’s public prosecutor. He said he would return on Monday morning. The family say they have not received proof that he is still alive since he stopped drinking water on Nov. 6, and have not received any communications from him since Oct. 31, when he announced his hunger and water strike.

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