There has recently been a "significant escalation" in Egypt's crackdown on social dissent, the U.N. said yesterday, warning that arbitrary detention in the country had become a "chronic problem".
Since 2013, international human rights groups have criticized President Abdel Fattah el-Sissi's government for cracking down on secular and left-wing activists, as well as those close to the banned Muslim Brotherhood.
But the U.N. rights office warned yesterday of a "renewed campaign of arrests, interrogations and detentions of activists, bloggers and journalists in Egypt" in recent weeks. This "appears to indicate a significant escalation in the crackdown against the rights to freedom of expression, association and assembly in the country," spokesperson Ravina Shamdasani told reporters in Geneva. She said a long line of prominent bloggers, journalists, lawyers and activists were among those who had been detained in the weeks since Egypt's General Prosecutor in February ordered prosecutors to monitor social media sites that "spread lies and fake news."
The growing crackdown also coincided with March elections that gave el-Sissi an official 97 percent of the vote. He was sworn in for his second four-year term last Saturday. Personalities involved in the January 2011 popular uprising that brought down President Hosni Mubarak are among those who have been detained, including blogger and journalist Wael Abbas and Shadi Ghazali Harb one of the youth leaders during the 2011 revolution. In many of the recent cases, those arrested were not presented with a warrant, the UN said. "We are extremely concerned that arrests like this, often followed by harsh sentences, and often for simply exercising the rights to freedom of opinion, expression and assembly, have become commonplace," Shamdasani said.