Egypt's highest court strikes down SCAF decree banning clemency

Ahram Online, Saturday 8 Nov 2014

Amendments from 2012 had barred judges from downgrading punishments for unlicensed weapons cases - which court says is unconstitutional

Adly Mansour
Former interim-president and head of the Constitutional Court Adly Mansour (Photo: Reuters)

Egypt's Supreme Constitutional Court on Saturday ruled that a decree issued by the country's military council barring judges from downgrading punishments in cases related to unlicensed weapons was unconstitutional.

In 2012, the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces (SCAF), which took power in Egypt after the ouster of president Hosni Mubarak in 2011, issued a decree amending two articles of the weapons and ammunition law.

The amendments included exempting crimes mentioned in the law from article 17 of the penal code, which stipulates how clemency may be doled out – such as in lowering death sentences to life imprisonment, or prison terms becoming specific detention periods, for example.

But the Supreme Constitutional Court, headed by Judge Adly Mansour – who was Egypt's interim president following the July 2013 ouster of Mohamed Morsi – ruled that judges must be allowed to downgrade punishments as they see fit, Al-Ahram's Arabic news website reported.

"The state of law is where the rights and freedoms of each citizen are guaranteed by and independent, immunised judiciary," the court said in its Saturday ruling, adding lowering sentences is a judge's right.

As such, taking away that right violates judges' independence – and also several articles of Egypt's constitution, the court ruling said.

The issue with the SCAF amendment began when two persons were recently arrested in the Nile Delta city of Damanhour on charges of possessing an unlicensed machine gun.

Damanhour Criminal Court argued that the amendments were unconstitutional, and passed them for review to the Supreme Constitutional Court.

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