UN COP28 climate meeting

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.

“Amnesty International believes the COP28 meeting should be completely inclusive and allow the view of all stakeholders to be freely heard. This must include allowing Emiratis and international participants to protest and criticize corporations and authorities, including the Emirati government. It remains to be seen whether the UAE’s promise is anything other than a hollow commitment.

“The agreement between the UAE and the UN establishing the legal framework for organizing and hosting of COP28 should be made public immediately. Draconian national laws will apply outside the UN venue, heightening concerns for the safety of anyone wishing to express views about climate change, the meeting or the UAE government.”

“COP28 will not bring about the ambitious action required to avert a climate catastrophe if the host state’s laws restrict freedom of expression and peaceful assembly, and throttle civil society.”


COP28 is scheduled to be held in Dubai between 30 November and 12 December.  The COP28 Presidency and the UN organizers, the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), issued a statement about the host agreement on 1 August.

The UAE has a dismal human rights record. It is more than a decade since the United Arab Emirates authorities sentenced 60 members of Emirati civil society to lengthy prison terms in a mass trial. None of the individuals have been released, even though 55 of them have completed their sentence.