People walk near a poster of Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi of the campaign titled, "Alashan Tabneeha" (So You Can Build It), Egypt, October 17, 2017 – Reuters
The United Nations Human Rights Chief Zeid Ra'ad al-Hussein denounced on Wednesday what he described as a "pervasive climate of intimidation" in Egypt ahead of presidential elections this month.
Al-Hussein claimed that the upcoming elections have been marked by "arrests, torture of detainees and silencing of independent media."
In an annual report submitted to the United Nations Human Rights Council, Ra'ad said that "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 frequently stressed the integrity of its upcoming presidential elections, scheduled 26-28 March, which is entirely supervised by the judiciary and monitored by many state and foreign media as well as international organizations.
The country has described international reports on its human rights record as "biased and politicised."
International condemnations of the human rights situation in Egypt has been increasing recently as the country approaches its presidential elections this month.
Addressing the UN’s Human Rights Council in Geneva Earlier this month, Egypt's Minister of Foreign Affairs Sameh Shoukry said Egypt has made progress in the field of human rights but warned the UN’s rights council against applying “double standards” and “politicisation" in its judgments.
The minister highlighted the latest improvements in human rights in Egypt, including amendments to the controversial protest law, under which many peaceful demonstrators have been jailed, and the presidential pardon committee assigned to review the status of young detainees.
Shoukry stated that the country had achieved much in its democratic transition despite the increase in security challenges and the spread of terrorism in the region and the world.
In the few weeks preceding the elections, some hopeful candidates withdrew from the elections race for several reasons, while the Egyptian government dismissed accusations that it had applied pressure on them to withdraw.
The Egyptian government has frequently responded that the withdrawn candidates were not excluded for political reasons, but rather for legal violations or not having fulfilled the presidential elections' requirements.
On 23 February, Egypt's National Elections Authority (NEA) approved current President Abdel-Fattah El-Sisi and Moussa Mostafa Moussa, a low-profile politician and head of the Ghad Party, as the final candidates.
President El-Sisi, whose current first term will end in June, won the 2014 presidential elections in a two-man race with nearly 97 percent of the vote over leftist politician Hamdeen Sabahi.
The elections are scheduled to start nationwide on 26-28 March, with runs-offs, if they are to take place, scheduled for 24-26 April.
If no run-offs are necessary, the winner will be announced on 2 April.