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United Arab Emirates must reform its dismal rights record to help ensure COP28 climate conference success


Countries at the climate meeting in Bonn on June 5 should urge the United Arab Emirates to improve its dismal human rights record to ensure a success that will help set the agenda for COP28 in Dubai later this year , Amnesty International said today.

Briefing note from Amnesty International, The human rights situation in the UAE ahead of COP28identified key human rights risks in the United Arab Emirates (UAE) that threatened the success of COP28, including the suppression of free expression rights and closure of civic space, the dangers of digital espionage and surveillance, and host country opposition to a rapid phase-out of fossil fuels.

“Success at COP28 is critical for human rights and the planet. This year, we must see all countries commit to rapidly phasing out all fossil fuels and put us on track to avoid worsening climate change,” Amnesty International Middle East and North Africa said regional director Heba Morayef. “However, the path to these outcomes is threatened by the effective closure of the UAE’s civic space, its well-known use of digital surveillance to spy on critics, and its resistance to phasing out fossil fuel production and use.”

The Bonn meeting paved the way for COP28, and participants should take this opportunity to show the UAE that it needs to change.

Heba Morayef, Regional Director for the Middle East and North Africa, Amnesty International

“COP28 must be a forum where civil society can participate freely and without fear, where indigenous peoples, communities and groups affected by climate change can share their experiences and formulate policy without intimidation, and where freedom of expression and peaceful protest Rights are supported. The Bonn meeting paved the way for COP28 and participants should use this opportunity to show the UAE that it needs to change.”

closed civil society

The UAE is markedly lacking in civil society and the rights to freedom of expression, association and peaceful assembly that are crucial to the success of the conference. UAE law prohibits criticism of “the state or its rulers” and for being associated with any group that opposes the “system of government” or “undermining national unity” or the “national interest”.

The government severely cracked down on a 2011 public petition calling for democratic reforms signed by hundreds of citizens. It has jailed dozens of Emirati legal professionals, academics and civil servants. It dissolved the board of directors of the UAE Jurists Association, whose two former presidents had signed a pro-democracy petition. They are in prison now.

Spyware on your phone

The UAE government has long attempted to digitally spy on human rights defenders and other critical voices. Among these targets is Ahmed Mansoor, recipient of the prestigious Martin Ennals Human Rights Defender Award, who was arrested in 2017 in retaliation for his peaceful activism doctrine, including postings on social media. He was sentenced to 10 years in prison for “insulting the prestige of the UAE”.

Investigations by journalists and civil society organizations and a ruling by a British court have found that the UAE is likely behind digital surveillance of several public figures. These include the late Emirati human rights defender Alaa al-Siddiq and a member of the British House of Lords. The country is also suspected of targeting writers and editors of international publications, including the Financial Times, The Economist and the Wall Street Journal.

Given its record, there is reason to believe that delegates and members of civil society attending COP28 may be subject to illegal digital espionage.

Expanding Fossil Fuel Production

The UAE’s own climate policy is a serious concern at COP28.The meeting’s chairman-designate, Sultan Al Jaber, leads state oil company ADNOC, one of the world’s largest producers of hydrocarbons, and is actively seeking plans to expand its fossil fuel production.

While Sultan Al Jaber and the UAE have announced a commitment to transition to clean energy, the actual approach taken is not aimed at reducing fossil fuel production. Instead, it usually involves scaling up technologies, such as carbon capture, utilization and storage, that have not yet been proven at scale, to limit emissions. The COP28 president-elect is pushing for a similar approach to this year’s climate change talks, as he advocates phasing out fossil fuel emissions rather than their production and use.

The United Arab Emirates often talks about producing energy in an environmentally friendly way, but these are often ways to disguise the fact that it plans to increase hydrocarbon production.

Heba Morayef, Regional Director for the Middle East and North Africa, Amnesty International

Heba Morayef said: “The United Arab Emirates talk a lot about producing energy in an environmentally friendly way, but these are often ways to hide the fact that they plan to increase hydrocarbon production. We cannot allow them to use their presidency of COP28 to promote the same globally. Accelerating gradually Phasing out fossil fuels must be a priority at this COP28, because without it we will exceed previously agreed limits on global temperature rise, with increasingly catastrophic impacts on humanity.”


COP28 is the 28th annual meeting of the Conference of the Parties to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change, the centerpiece of global efforts to prevent catastrophic climate change by limiting the increase in average global temperatures to 1.5°C above previous levels. industrial level. It will be held in Dubai from November 30 to December 12. The Bonn climate change conference, held from 5 to 15 June, is a prelude to the COP.

Last year, COP27 was held in Egypt in a brutal, ongoing suppress dissent Initiated by the government of Abdel Fattah el-Sisi.Egyptian authorities’ defiance of human rights leads to both before and during meetings, even in UN jurisdictions that are supposed to be free from government intimidation and surveillance.

In addition to concerns about civic space, digital surveillance and climate policy, the UAE has a poor human rights record in protecting migrant workers from arbitrary detention and deportation and exploitation of their labour; equality between men and women before the law; sexual conduct is criminalized. Its direct and indirect involvement in the armed conflicts in Libya and Yemen constitutes a serious violation of international law.Amnesty International has prepared a full briefing and recommendations covering these issues.Amnesty International’s recommendations to states ahead of Bonn climate change conference and COP28 now published here.


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