First Published: 2005-04-06

 
Egypt's judges join reform calls
 

Judges threaten to block future polls unless powers between judicial and executive branches are separated.

 

Middle East Online

By Mona Salem - CAIRO

Rejection of Egypt's regime is increasing

Egypt's judges have rallied mounting calls for political reforms, asking for a long-due separation of powers between the judicial and executive branches and threatening to disturb upcoming presidential polls.

The Egyptian Judges' Club - Egypt's equivalent of a judges' union - presented a draft law to parliament via left-wing opposition MP Abul Ezz al-Hariri late last month that seeks to amend the current judiciary law and guarantee their independence from the executive branch.

"A new judiciary law must be passed during the current parliamentary session (ending in June) before we consider supervising any future elections," said a statement released by the Judges' Club general assembly in Alexandria.

The judges are due to meet on April 14 and examine whether "to abstain from supervising the elections if a new law is not passed", one union member said.

Some are "even calling for a sit-in or a strike but we're trying to dissuade them because we want to resort to dialogue and rather than a confrontation", added Hisham Bastawissi, who also sits on Egypt's court of cassation.

Earlier this year, Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak asked lawmakers to amend the constitution to allow for the first multi-candidate presidential elections in Egypt's history, set to be held in September.

Legislative polls will take place in October or November 2005.

"We believe that the independence of the judiciary is linked to the elections because a judge cannot be independent if he doesn't have the authority to supervise each and every phase of the electoral process," said Bastawissi.

"This ranges from controlling the electoral register to announcing the final results and the process cannot be transparent and properly supervised if it is overseen by the executive authorities and especially the ministry of interior," Hisham Bastawissi said.

"Under the current law, the state usurps the powers of the judiciary and places them in the hands of the interior minister, and the executive appoints all seven members of the supreme council of judges," he added in reference to the six council chiefs and the attorney general.

Bastawissi said the draft law proposed by the Judges' Club seeks to change these prerogatives to see the election of the attorney general and of at least five council chiefs.

Egypt's Justice Minister Mahmud Abu el-Leil said last week a preparatory committee had been set up examine a new judiciary law.

"This is only meant to postpone examining the Judges' Club draft law for another number of years," charged Bastawissi.

The draft law proposes that the extensive powers of the justice minister be trimmed so that he can no longer interfere in judiciary affairs, that court presidents be elected rather than appointed and that the judges' financial independence be guaranteed.

"It's all about democracy, there cannot be democracy without an independent, impartial and competent judiciary," said Yehia al-Rifai, a legal authority in Egypt and the former head of the court of cassation.

"The constitution provides for the independence of the judiciary but it does not establish the necessary guarantees for that purpose," Rifai said.

"This has allowed successive ministers of justice to exert their authority over judges, starting with fixing the amount of their financial bonuses and other monetary incentives to deciding on their appointments to high positions, which means buying their allegiance," he also said.

Rifai said fellow judges had pinned their hopes on the union's draft law whose "examination by parliament may happen thanks to calls by the United States and Europe for democratic changes" in Egypt.

Under growing pressure from its US ally, on which it is heavily dependent for both military and civilian aid, the government has grudgingly accepted the need for reform.

 

Is this the end for the South Sudan government?

Washington easing aid freeze to Cairo

Israel weighs response to Palestinian unity deal

Jordan amends anti-terror law to curb Jihadist threat

Dubai's Emaar posts huge Q1 profit

Armenia leader accuses Ankara of 'utter denial' on genocide

Eight killed in Iraq car bomb attack

Mauritanian president will stand for re-election

France, US mull sanctions against South Sudan

South Sudan leader sacks army chief

Netayahu to Abbas: Does you want peace with Hamas or peace with Israel?

Bahrain expels representative of Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani

Witnesses in Morsi trial: Hamas and Hezbollah attacked Egypt prisons

Family of detained Al-Jazeera reporter in Egypt call for his release

Bomb targets convoy of Education Minister in north Iraq

After Ervin scandal, Iran Prisons Chief becomes Head of Justice Department

Egypt FM travels to US as Washington relaxes hold on military aid

No Qatar ‘concessions’ on end of dispute with fellow Gulf states

US diplomat visits Libya amid political upheaval

Blair calls on West to combat ‘growing’ danger of Islamist extremism

Jarba asks Saudi Arabia to increase support for Syria rebels

Better late than never: Erdogan offers condolences over mass WWI killings of Armenians

Hezbollah veto dashes Geagea dreams of presidency

UN aid chiefs make impassionate call for Syria access

Police brigadier general killed in Cairo bomb attack

11 new MERS infections registered in Saudi

EU denounces Syria plans for June 3 election

Iran envoy row fails to make headway at UN

Amnesty: Qatar fails to protect domestic workers

US will deliver 10 Apache choppers to Egypt to counter terrorism

US expresses horror at South Sudan violence

Egypt's next president will have to deal with frustrated workers

Rival Palestinian leaders agree on national unity govt

Jumblatt backs lawmaker Henri Helou for Lebanon presidency

Global chemical watchdog: Syria weapons handover at 86.5 percent

Kerry ‘prefers’ Cold War-like situation to current complex challenges

Israel to call up Christian Arabs for military service

Egypt prosecutors submit new evidence in Jazeera trial

Families of Iran prisoners break silence over abuses at notorious Evin

Lebanon sends rare aid to its territory in Syria

Iran divorce rate increases amid slow population growth

Suspected militant attacks kill four Yemen officers in two days

Distrust casts shadow over South Kordofan peace talks

Ali Tarhuni heads Libya constituent assembly

Washington revisits story of Syria chemical weapons