GENEVA (Reuters) - The U.N. human rights chief said on Wednesday there was a “pervasive climate of intimidation” in Egypt in the run-up to this month’s presidential elections marked by arrests, torture of detainees and “silencing” of independent media.
In Cairo, Egypt’s foreign ministry dismissed the comments as “baseless allegations”.
“The foreign ministry calls on the High Commissioner for Human Rights to stop attacking the Egyptian state without any right, and to instead adopt a professional and objective approach, and pay attention to the progress achieved in the area of democratisation,” the statement said.
Egypt has stepped up a crackdown on media outlets it deems to be publishing reports that might harm national security, as the country approaches an election where President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi is virtually guaranteed a second term, and the military fights to crush Islamic State militants in the Sinai Peninsula.
Zeid Ra’ad al-Hussein, in an annual report submitted to the United Nations Human Rights Council in Geneva, said: “Potential candidates have allegedly been pressured to withdraw, some through arrests”.
He continued: “Legislation prevents candidates and supporters from organising rallies. Independent media have been silenced, with over 400 media and NGO websites completely blocked.”
Reporting by Stephanie Nebehay in Geneva and Nadine Awadalla in Cairo; editing by Tom Miles and Mark Heinrich