200+ civil society organizations raise concerns about UAE rights record and climate policies ahead of COP28 News
WildPixar / Pixabay
200+ civil society organizations raise concerns about UAE rights record and climate policies ahead of COP28

Amnesty International, along with over 200 civil society organizations, called upon participating governments of the 28th Conference of the Parties (COP28) on Wednesday to address the human rights records and climate policies of the United Arab Emirates (UAE). The COP28, an annual conference of governments from around the world to discuss climate policies, is scheduled to run from November 30 through December 12.

The public statement emphasizes that climate justice and human rights are interconnected. In order for COP28 to achieve its objectives, the civil society organizations’ public statement calls upon the participating governments to utilize the platform provided by COP28 to shed light on the human rights violations perpetrated by the UAE. These violations span across six different aspects, including:

  1. the use of spyware and surveillance technologies that violated the right to privacy;
  2. the imprisonment of Emirati human rights defenders, civil society activists and political dissidents;
  3. the enactment of laws that discriminate against women;
  4. the enactment of laws that criminalize LGBTQ+ individuals;
  5. the lack of protections for migrant construction workers at the site of the COP28 facilities; and
  6. abuses by armed groups in Yemen, Bahrain, Egypt, Libya and Tunisia.

Reuters reported that the UAE denied the allegation and claimed that the UAE will permit all COP28 visitors to protest peacefully. The UAE also contended that it is one of the most tolerant and diverse nations with its constitution provides the right to freedom from discrimination.

Recently, in August, Human Rights Watch (HRW) also published another joint statement with similar demands to the Wednesday statement. In it, HRW called for the release of human rights defenders ahead of the COP28. As HRW observed, there are at least 58 activists being detained, even though they have served their sentences. The infinite detainment is based on a vague and overly broad definition of terrorism in the UAE’s Federal Law on Combating Terrorism Offences. The Palestinian BDS National Committee also called for a boycott of the COP28 to put pressure on the UAE government.

Outside of the UAE’s continuous human rights violations, Wednesday’s statement also draws attention to the UAE’s greenwashing campaign and plan to significantly increase state oil and gas production. In particular, the president of the COP28 climate negotiations, Sultan al-Jaber, is also the chief executive of the Abu Dhabi National Oil Company, a state-owned oil company. The public statement calls upon the participating governments to rectify this conflict of interest to ensure that the objectives of the COP28 are achieved meaningfully. Sultan al-Jaber’s dual position has generated controversies since May 2023. Members of the US Congress and the EU Parliament jointly wrote to the US President Joe Biden and President of the European Commission Ursula von der Leyen urging them to advocate for the withdrawal of the appointment of Sultan al-Jaber.