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Thursday, 20 June 2019

Egypt: Amending judicial regulations

Recent constitutional amendments mean laws regulating the Constitutional Court and judicial authorities must be modified

Gamal Essam El-Din , Thursday 23 May 2019
Parliament
Egyptian parliament
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The government has referred amendments to laws regulating the performance of the Supreme Constitutional Court and other judicial authorities to parliament.

The redrafted laws will be discussed by the Constitutional and Legislative Affairs Committee, Speaker Ali Abdel-Aal told MPs last week.

The committee will also review new legislation establishing a Higher Council for Judicial Authorities.

The list of draft amendments to be discussed includes changes to the law regulating the Supreme Constitutional Court (48/1979), the Administrative Prosecution Authority (117/1958), the Military Prosecution (25/1966), the Judicial Authority (46/1972), and the State Council (47/1972).

Bahaaeddin Abu Shokka, chairman of the committee and head of the Wafd Party, told reporters this week that the new drafts of the laws will make them compatible with the constitutional amendments passed by parliament on 16 April and approved in a public referendum on 23 April.

“The committee has already begun to review the drafts and we hope to present a report for discussion in time for the plenary session scheduled for 9 June,” said Abu Shokka.

Ahmed Helmi Al-Sherif, deputy head of the committee, said that while changes to seven laws dealing with judicial and military affairs were being reviewed new political laws would undergo a consultative process before being presented to parliament.

“Laws regulating the House of Representatives, the exercise of political rights and the redrawing of electoral districts all need to be updated in light of changes to Article 102 of the constitution,” said Al-Sherif.

Amendments to Article 102 reduced the number of seats in the House of Representatives from 596 to 450, stipulating that 25 per cent be reserved for women, and require that an electoral system be specified that ensures equality of representation across society.

The redrafted laws, in line with Article 234, must “help underrepresented groups — Copts, workers and farmers, the young, people with disabilities and expatriates — to enter parliament,” said Al-Sherif.

“Of course, such major changes to political and election laws must first be discussed in a national dialogue so a consensus can be built ahead of being referred to parliament.”

Abdel-Aal told MPs the Supreme Constitutional Court, to avoid scenarios in which majority groups enact legislation to serve partisan interests, had ruled parliament can only discuss laws on parliamentary elections if they first win a consensus among political forces.

The referendum covered 12 constitutional articles, four of which — articles 185, 189, 190 and 193 — deal with judicial authorities, the selection of the prosecutor-general, the State Council and the naming of the head of the Supreme Constitutional Court.

With regard to the last, said Al-Sherif, the amended article allows the chairman of the court to be named by the president from among the court’s deputy heads.

The court’s commissioners will also be named by the president based on recommendation from the court’s chairman and according to the will of the court’s general assembly.

“This does not violate the independence of the court or infringe upon its powers,” said Abdel-Aal. “It gives the president a symbolic right: to name the head of this judicial authority based on nominations by members and the general assembly.”

The State Council Law (47/1972) has been redrafted in line with amended Article 190.

“The redraft details the mandate of the State Council — settling administrative disputes, disciplinary cases and appeals, revising draft laws and decrees,” said Al-Sherif. “Changes to the Judicial Authority Law (46/1972), in line with amended Article 189, state that the prosecutor-general be named by the president from three candidates nominated by the Higher Council for Judicial Authorities, and that the prosecutor-general’s term in office be four years.”

The two laws regulating the Administrative Prosecution Authority (117/1958) and the State Cases Authority were also redrafted in line with changes to Article 185 of the constitution allowing the president to name the authorities’ heads from among the most senior deputy heads.

“A Higher Council for Judicial Authorities will be created with the president as its head. In the case of the president’s absence, the head of a judicial authority will be delegated,” said Al-Sherif.

Redrafted laws also regulate the performance of military courts (44/1966) in line with changes to Article 204.

“The redraft states that civilians can be tried before military courts only in cases involving crimes against military camps, in military zones and along borders, involving military equipment, vehicles, weapons, ammunition, documents, secrets, funds and army factories,” said Al-Sherif.

*A version of this article appears in print in the 23 May, 2019 edition of Al-Ahram Weekly under the headline: Amending judicial regulations

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