Global: Pledge to allow ‘peaceful assembly’ at COP28 highlights the UAE’s lack of freedoms

Responding to a pledge by the hosts of the COP28 climate meeting to make ‘space available for climate activists to assemble peacefully and make their voices heard’, Heba Morayef, Amnesty International’s Regional Director for the Middle East and North Africa, said:

“The fact that the hosts of this crucial climate meeting felt the need to highlight that some form of free assembly and expression will be allowed during COP28 serves only to highlight the normally restrictive human rights environment in the United Arab Emirates and the severe limits it places on the rights to freedom of expression and peaceful assembly.

“In the UAE, peaceful dissent through expression, association or peaceful assembly is severely restricted or criminalized, public assemblies require government approval, and dozens of critics of the government are in jail. Rather than make an exception related to this two-week meeting, the UAE should permanently do away with these restrictions, as well as the many other curbs it imposes on human rights, and make amends for previous abuses.

“It remains unclear exactly what the UAE authorities will allow, and whether a public demonstration by attendees, as has traditionally occurred in the middle weekend of COP meetings in the host city, can take place.

“At the previous COP meeting in Egypt last year the space given over to protest was wholly inadequate, and the meeting was preceded by a crackdown and arrests by security forces.


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