The Egyptian government has been using "disproportionate" force in dealing with protesters, journalists, lawyers and human rights defenders who appear to be taking part in peaceful protests or dissenting, the United Nations has said.

"The worsening crackdown on peaceful protest and dissent in Egypt represents a further setback for an open political environment and a vibrant civil society," said a statement released by the UN Human Rights Office of the High Commissioner 

"The use of force against civil society and against the expression of dissenting views on political issues contribute to a deteriorating climate for the promotion and protection of fundamental rights that form the essential components of a democratic society," it added.


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Anti-government protests broke out on April 15, and again on April 25 after the Egyptian government ceded two islands in the Red Sea to Saudi Arabia. According to the UN, more than 380 protesters, journalists and human rights activists were arrested during the rallies.

The UN condemned what they called a "harsh response" of mass arrests and continued clampdown on peaceful protests during the largest rallies in Egypt over the past two years.

Security forces stormed Egypt's Journalists' Syndicate in Cairo on May 1 and arrested two journalists, two days before World Press Freedom Day.

And last Saturday, Egypt sentenced six people to death, including two Al Jazeera journalists, who were accused of leaking state secrets to Qatar.

Asmaa Mohamed al-Khatib, identified as a reporter with the pro-Brotherhood Rassd news outlet, was also sentenced to death in absentia. Ibrahim Helal, former director of news at Al Jazeera's Arabic channel, and Jordanian citizen Alaa Omar Mohamed Sablan were both tried in absentia.

The Committee to Protect Journalists says Egypt is second only to China as the world's worst jailer of journalists, holding at least 23 in jail.

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Source: Al Jazeera and agencies