The UN human rights chief on Wednesday decried a “pervasive climate of intimidation” in Egypt ahead of presidential elections this month that he said has been marked by arrests, torture of detainees and “silencing” of independent media.
Zeid Al-Hussein, in an annual report submitted to the UN Human Rights Council, said: “Potential candidates have allegedly been pressured to withdraw, some through arrests. Legislation prevents candidates and supporters from organising rallies.
“Independent media have been silenced, with over 400 media and NGO websites completely blocked.”
Egypt has stepped up a crackdown on media outlets it deems to be publishing reports which might harm national security, as the country approaches an election where President Abdel-Fattah al-Sisi is virtually guaranteed a second term.
Presidential elections will be held in Egypt between March 26 and March 28.
On Jan. 19, El-Sisi formally announced he would run for a second and final term.
El-Sisi’s supporter Mousa Mustafa Mousa is running for president after all other viable candidates were arrested or intimidated.
No fewer than 14 international and Egyptian rights groups, including Human Rights Watch and the International Commission of Jurists, accused El-Sisi government of having “trampled over even the minimum requirements for free and fair elections” in his bid for a second term.
They released a statement demanding the U.S., EU and individual European states allied to Egypt to “speak out publicly now to denounce these farcical elections, rather than continue with largely unquestioning support for a government presiding over the country’s worst human rights crisis in decades”.
The NGOs condemned the election on the same day that Egypt’s former top auditor Hisham Geneina was seized at his home in New Cairo by police, according to his lawyer, Ali Taha.