WASHINGTON – U.S. Senators Chris Murphy (D-Conn.), Chairman of the U.S. Senate Foreign Relations Subcommittee on Near East, South Asia, Central Asia, and Counterterrorism, and Jeff Merkley (D-Ore.), a member of the Senate Foreign Relations and Environment and Public Works Committees, and U.S. Rep. David Cicilline (D-R.I.-01), Chairman of the U.S. House of Representatives Foreign Affairs Subcommittee on Middle East, North Africa, and Global Counterterrorism, and U.S. Rep. Bill Keating (D-M.A.-09), Chairman of the U.S House of Representatives Foreign Affairs Subcommittee on Europe, Energy, the Environment and Cyber led 52 of their colleagues in a letter to President Biden urging the Administration to raise human rights concerns with the Egyptian government ahead of COP27.
“We are therefore deeply troubled by the message it sends to the world that the Egyptian government is hosting COP27 while imprisoning tens of thousands of political prisoners – including many environmental activists. With the world’s attention on Sharm el-Sheikh this month, COP27 presents a unique opportunity for the United States to press the Egyptian government to release these activists and demonstrate its commitment to inclusive engagement with the full range of stakeholders on climate solutions,” the lawmakers wrote.
The lawmakers highlighted Egypt’s egregious human rights violations, including widespread arbitrary detentions, restrictions on members of the media and non-governmental organizations, and the government’s crackdown on political opponents. They also called attention to the important role that civil society organizations play in the global fight against climate change, through promoting government accountability, connecting grassroots efforts across the globe, and translating climate policies to the broader population. In October, the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights criticized Egypt for cracking down on civil society and creating a “climate of fear for Egyptian civil society organizations to engage visibly at the COP27.”
The lawmakers also recognized that the Global South – including the Middle East and North Africa – is disproportionally affected by climate change, particularly the most vulnerable populations. While Egypt has demonstrated leadership on issues like water scarcity, rising sea levels, air pollution, and record high temperatures, its efforts are hindered by a refusal to allow meaningful participation of environmental and civil society groups, activists, and those most impacted by the climate crisis.
“We urge the Administration to engage the Egyptian government to allow the full participation of civil society throughout this year’s summit. This includes ensuring that both participants and observers, including groups critical of the government, have access to engage and express their positions freely at COP27. This simply cannot occur with the unprecedented detention of leading environmental activists and prominent political prisoners,” said the legislators.
The lawmakers also urged the Administration to call for the release of specific political prisoners.
The letter was signed by U.S. Senators Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.), Cory Booker (D-N.J.), Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio), Ben Cardin (D-Md.), Thomas Carper (D-Del.), Christopher Coons (D-Del.), Richard Durbin (D-Ill.), Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.), Edward J. Markey (D-Mass.), Jeff Merkley (D-Ore.), Alex Padilla (D-Calif.), Bernard Sanders (I-Vt.), Brian Schatz (D-Hawaii), Chris Van Hollen (D-Md.), Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.), and Sheldon Whitehouse (D-R.I.). It was also signed by U.S. House Representatives Karen Bass (D-Calif.), Donald Beyer (D-Va.), Jamaal Bowman (D-N.Y.), Salud Carbajal (D-Calif.), Tony Cárdenas (D-Calif.), André Carson (Ind.), Kathy Castor (D-Fla.), Joaquin Castro (D-Texas), David Cicilline (D-R.I.), Gerald Connolly (D-Va.), Jason Crow (D-Colo.), Lloyd Doggett (D-Texas.), Jesús García (D-Ill.), Raúl Grijalva (D-Ariz.), Sara Jacobs (D-Calif.), William Keating (D-Mass.), Ro Khanna (D-Calif.), Barbara Lee (D-Calif.), Andy Levin (D-Mich), Ted Lieu (D-Calif.), Stephen Lynch (D-Mass.), Tom Malinowski (D-N.J.), James McGovern (D-Mass.), Grace Meng (D-N.Y.), Eleanor Holmes Norton (D-District of Columbia), Ilhan Omar (D-Minn.), Lucille Roybal-Allard (D-Calif.), Janice Schakowsky (D-Ill.), Adam Schiff (D-Calif.), Albio Sires (D-N.J.), Mark Takano (D-Calif.), Dina Titus (D-Nev.), Rashida Tlaib (D-Mich), Ritchie Torres (D-N.Y.), Juan Vargas (D-Calif.), Bonnie Watson Coleman (D-N.J.), Peter Welch (D-Vt.), Susan Wild (D-Pa.), and Nikema Williams (D-Ga.)
Full text of the letter is available here.