Amnesty International (AI) says today that a new law passed by parliament last night, granting the President the power to appoint the most senior members within the justice system, could further undermine the independence of the judiciary in Egypt.
AI says the law would grant President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi powers to select the heads of judicial bodies, including the heads of the Court of Cassation, the State Council, the Administrative Prosecution Authority and the State Lawsuits Authority.
“This law has the potential to undermine the independence of the country’s already beleaguered judiciary and, if ratified by the President, could be a major setback for justice in Egypt. It would grant the Egyptian President the power to select the heads of country’s top judicial bodiesand could weaken key checks and balances in an already unjust system,” said Najia Bounaim, North Africa Campaigns director at Amnesty International.
“Through this law, the state is seeking to further consolidate its grip on power and neuter two of the highest courts who have at times acted as a check on the executive.”
The bill was passed on 26 April after two-thirds of parliament members voted in favour of the amendments. Several judicial bodies, including the State Council, the Supreme Council of Judiciary and the State Lawsuits Authority, had formally registered their opposition in advance of the parliamentary vote.
AI says two of the highest courts in the country, the Court of Cassation and the Supreme Administrative Court will be particularly affected by the new law. They were considered by many in Egypt’s legal community as the last hope of keeping the injustice that has characterized the judiciary for years in check.
AI says a number of judges have faced disciplinary measures for peacefully criticizing the government, and that two judges, Hisham Raouf and Assem Abdelgabar, were referred to a disciplinary board in march 2017 by the Minister of Justice for participating with an Egyptian human rights group in a workshop to draft a law on torture.
“On 28 March 2016, a Supreme Disciplinary Board forced 32 judges into retirement after they signed a statement on 24 July 2013 opposing the overthrow of former president Mohamed Morsi. Disciplinary measures against judges appear to have been applied in a discriminatory manner with those who have voiced opinions in favour of the government escaping punishment.”