The UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Zeid Ra'ad Al-Hussein said on Monday that the security measures of Egyptian authorities were fostering radicalization, in remarks Cairo has slammed as "irresponsible" and "disgraceful".
At a news conference in Geneva, Zeid condemned recent church attacks in Egypt that left 47 dead and prompted President Abdel-Fattah El-Sisi to declare a three-month state of emergency. However, he said that Egypt's strategy in combating Islamist militants was aggravating the problem.
"A state of emergency, the large numbers of detentions, reports of torture, and continued arbitrary arrests – all of this, we believe, facilitates radicalisation in prisons," Zeid said.
He added that "the crackdown on civil society" was "not the way to fight terrorism."
"National security must be a priority for every country, but again not at the expense of human rights,” Zeid said.
In response, Egypt's foreign ministry described the remarks as "irresponsible" and "disgraceful".
"Such irresponsible remarks launched by people who are supposed to be aware of the nature of the tasks and responsibilities of the positions they hold are shameful and even disgraceful at times," Foreign Ministry Spokesman Ahmed Abu Zeid said in a statement late on Monday.
The remarks "provide a justification and search for excuses for the spread of extremism and terrorism in Egypt," overlooking the fact that terrorism is a global phenomenon that has hit all countries, the spokesman said in the statement
Abu Zeid also lashed out at what he called the "inadequate and unbalanced reading of the situation in Egypt."
The spokesman defended the state of emergency as having been passed by an elected parliament under the "rules and restrictions" defined by the constitution.
"We don't see the High Commissioner criticizing other states implementing states of emergency under similar conditions," the statement said.