Amid the ongoing COP27 climate conference at the Red Sea resort of Sharm el Sheikh in Egypt, German federal police have warned its delegates that they may be getting spied on by the host country’s security agents, said a report by Reuters citing three people with knowledge on the matter.
Meanwhile, Germany has lodged a complaint with the Egyptian government over constant unwanted monitoring by their security agents and accused them of monitoring and filming events at the country’s pavilion at the summit, said a report by the German press agency (DPA).
On the other hand, an email sent on November 12 by the German police warned its delegates of “overt and covert surveillance through photography and videography” by Egyptian security agents, said one of the people quoting the email to Reuters. Meanwhile, two officials have confirmed the issuance of the warning but did not elaborate on the specifics.
The person quoting the email also said they were warned about their conversations being recorded and possible disruptions by the Egyptian state at events organised by Berlin. Furthermore, three German attendees from non-governmental organisations and industry say that they have also been warned by other attendees and delegations of possible surveillance at COP27.
Two NGO members, one from German Federation for the Environment and Nature Conservation, and another from Climate Action Network, claim that they have on multiple occasions in recent days witnessed being photographed and followed, said Reuters. This comes as Berlin has used their conference area for hosting events focused on human rights situations in Egypt.
Meanwhile, following these allegations Germany’s foreign ministry, in a statement had said, “We expect all participants in the UN climate conference to be able to work and negotiate under safe conditions…This is not just true for the German but for all delegations, as well as representatives of civil society and the media.”
Reportedly, the German pavilion at the summit saw the attendance of activists from Human Rights Watch and Amnesty International along with prominent Egyptian activist and film editor, Sanaa Seif who has served several prison terms in the country. Notably, Seif is also the sister of a jailed Egyptian-British hunger striker and pro-democracy activist, Alaa Abd el-Fattah.
The Egyptian security sources while speaking to DPA rejected these allegations and said that personnel were present for the security of foreign seminars and activities for the UN team and their role as Egyptians was restricted to security outside the halls and in the city. However, several participants have alleged that the Egyptian staff had insisted on being a part of closed sessions as well.
“It is very obvious that the Egyptian authorities are monitoring human rights activities…The only reason they haven’t used physical violence yet is that we’re in a UN-controlled area,” said Hossam Bahgat, founder of the human rights organisation, Egyptian Initiative for Personal Rights (EIPR), while speaking with DPA.
According to the German media report, Egyptian officials arriving in the German area had taken photos, and videos, and even disrupted proceedings on at least two occasions. This comes days after German Chancellor Olaf Scholz, had also raised the issue of jailed hunger striker Alaa Abd el-Fattah during his visit to the climate summit.
The prominent activist and blogger has been sentenced to five years in prison on charges of spreading false news and has been on hunger strike for over 200 days against his detention and the conditions of the prison. “A decision needs to be taken, a release has to be made possible, so that it doesn’t come to it that the hunger striker dies,” said Scholz during a press conference in Egypt.
(With inputs from agencies)
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