Rights group sounds alarm: COP28 participants face extensive surveillance in UAE

Dubai, Dec 1 (EFE).- Participants of the UN climate summit in Dubai will be under “extensive surveillance” by the authorities of the United Arab Emirates, Human Rights Watch (HRW) said on Friday.

“From the moment COP28 participants land in Dubai, they will be exposed to intrusive government surveillance,” the rights group said in a press statement.

The nonprofit said the surveillance was in violation of human rights and threatened the success of the summit, which brings together hundreds of government representatives, civil society groups, and climate activists from around the world.

The rights group said the UAE authorities would capture the face and iris scans of participants in an optional program at Dubai International Airport known as “smart gates.”

“Whether or not they use this program, an expansive network of surveillance cameras throughout Dubai is able to identify all visitors based on data taken at customs as they travel throughout the city,” the HRW statement said.

It said the UAE carried out extensive communications surveillance, and participants might be subjected to government monitoring of their online posts and comments and interception of their text messages.

HRW warned that the extensive electronic surveillance risked the safety of participants criticizing the authorities.

The surveillance system in Dubai consists of over 300,000 cameras and drones that can “track people as they move throughout Dubai.”

Also, voice communication features on applications like WhatsApp and Skype are restricted, forcing users to use less secure apps.

Senior surveillance researcher at HRW, Zach Campbell, said it was unlikely for the summit “to succeed if delegates can’t communicate without fear.”

“The use of facial recognition in public spaces and mass communications surveillance both violate international human rights standards,” said Campbell.

The rights group criticized the UAE’s cybercrime law as “used to silence dissidents, journalists, activists, and anyone the authorities perceived to be critical of the government, its policies, or its representatives.”

It said the cybercrime law included severe restrictions on the rights to peaceful assembly and free association.

Emirati authorities have used it to imprison UAE citizens and residents for peaceful social media posts that were deemed to be critical of the governments in the UAE, Egypt, and Jordan.

“The Emirati government should ease its grip on civic space and end its surveillance of critical voices in the UAE and beyond,” Campbell said.

COP28, which runs through Dec. 12, brings together global leaders, activists, scientists, and industry representatives in a huddle for solutions at this pivotal moment for the planet’s climate and energy future. EFE


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