Egypt has dismissed as "baseless allegations" the UN’s human rights chief criticism of the political climate in Egypt in the run-up to this month's presidential elections.
Zeid Ra'ad Al Hussein, the high commissioner of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, said Wednesday there was a "pervasive climate of intimidation" in Egypt ahead of the vote, marked by arrests, "silencing" of independent media and torture in detention.
Egypt's foreign ministry described the remarks as unfounded and misleading.
"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 field of democratisation," the ministry said in a statement released on Wednesday.
The ministry said that the UN official based his remarks on "politicised reports" and "alleged" information.
In an annual report submitted to the United Nations Human Rights Council in Geneva, Al Hussein also said that "potential candidates have allegedly been pressured to withdraw, some through arrests."
The ministry responded by saying that potential challengers dropped out either voluntarily or because they failed to complete their official papers, adding that authorities dealt with those who committed violations "in accordance with sound legal procedures" and with transparency.
In January, rights lawyer Khaled Ali quit the presidential race, claiming a lack of guarantees of a fair contest. His announcement came days after authorities detained former army chief of staff Lieutenant General Sami Anan after the army accused him of forgery and of running for office without permission.
Other challengers who have dropped out include former prime minister Ahmed Shafiq and former MP Mohamed Anwar El-Sadat.
In its statement, the foreign ministry criticized what it called the UN chief's "covert support" for a terrorist group, in reference to the outlawed Muslim Brotherhood group.
Al Hussein had said that supporters of the Islamist group have been targeted by authorities along with human rights defenders, journalists, and civil society campaigners.