May 1, 2017 / 11:46 AM / 3 months ago

U.N. rights boss says Egypt crackdown 'facilitates radicalisation'

2 Min Read

United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights Zeid Ra'ad al-Hussein of Jordan speaks during a news conference at the United Nations European headquarters in Geneva, Switzerland, May 1, 2017.Pierre Albouy

GENEVA (Reuters) - U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights Zeid Ra'ad al-Hussein said on Monday that heavy-handed security measures by Egypt were fostering the very radicalisation it was looking to curb.

Egypt last month was shaken by one of the bloodiest attacks in years when Islamic State suicide bombers targeted two Christian churches, killing 45 people. President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi declared a three-month state of emergency hours later.

Zeid condemned the church attacks at a news conference in Geneva but said that Egypt's approach to combating Islamist militants was exacerbating the problem.

"...a state of emergency, the massive numbers of detentions, reports of torture, and continued arbitrary arrests - all of this we believe facilitates radicalisation in prisons," Zeid said.

She said "the crackdown on civil society" was "not the way to fight terror."

Responding, Foreign Ministry Spokesman Ahmed Abu Zeid called the remarks an "irresponsible" and "unbalanced" reading of the situation in Egypt, where society is targeted by "terrorist operations," according to a statement from the ministry.

Abu Zeid defended the emergency law as passed by an elected parliament subject to "rules and restrictions" set out by the constitution.

"We don't see the High Commissioner criticizing other states implementing states of emergency that are dealing with similar conditions," the statement said.

Sisi, elected in 2014 in part on a pledge to restore stability to a country hit by years of turmoil since its 2011 uprising, has sought to present himself as an indispensable bulwark against terrorism in the Middle East.

Rights groups, however, say they face the worst crackdown in their history.

"National security yes, must be a priority for every country, but again not at the expense of human rights,” said Zeid.

Reporting by Stephanie Nebehay; Writing by Eric Knecht; Editing by Robin Pomeroy

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