The office of the U.N. human rights chief is decrying an "intensified crackdown" on freedoms and rights in Bahrain after the country's top Shiite cleric was stripped of his nationality and is urging authorities to "de-escalate" the situation.

Rights office spokeswoman Ravina Shamdasani on Tuesday appealed on Bahrain to ensure civil society activists won't face "undue pressure, intimidation or reprisals."

Bahrain's Sheikh Isa Qassim was stripped of his nationality on Monday. The Interior Ministry says he played a key role in creating an extremist sectarian atmosphere.

Shamdasani said the Universal Declaration of Human Rights guarantees the right to nationality, which cannot be taken away for "arbitrary" reasons.

She also urged Bahrain to ensure respect of the right to peaceful assembly. Thousands have protested in Qassim's mostly Shiite village of Diraz.