Egypt’s House of Representatives will hold plenary meetings on Sunday, Monday, and Tuesday to discuss a new agenda of legislation and investigate the policies of the Minister of Justice Omar Marawan.
On Sunday, the House will discuss two new controversial amendments to Law 48/1979, regulating the performance of the Supreme Constitutional Court (SCC).
The amendments will grant the SCC greater powers to revise international arbitration rulings if proven harmful to the Egyptian economy and state and whether any of these rulings violate the constitution.
A report prepared by the House's Constitutional and Legislative Affairs Committee said the new amendments go in line with Egypt's 2014 constitution and come in light of the fact that a number of disputes are up for settlement before international arbitration courts.
The report argued that "although Article 192 of the constitution states that the SCC's jurisdiction is limited to local laws and decrees, the second paragraph of the article states that the law regulating the performance of the SCC could be amended to grant it greater powers," said the report.
According to the report, two new articles will be added to the SCC law. "The first is Article 27, which states that the SCC's jurisdiction will be extended to include rulings issued by international institutions and organisations, foreign court verdicts, and international arbitration rulings which the state is required to implement," said the report.
The second, said the report, is Article 33 which states that the prime minister will be empowered to refer the rulings specified by Article 27 to the SCC to revise their constitutional terms and see whether they can be ignored because of their breach of the constitution and lack of legislative legitimacy.
The report said the above legislative amendments are necessary to safeguard national interests against international rulings which lack legislative legitimacy and which are issued by foreign institutions and international arbitration courts. "The amendments are necessary and represent a progressive legislative step aimed at safeguarding Egypt's national security against foreign institutions and organisations and international arbitration courts which issue rulings lacking legislative legitimacy," said the report.
Ibrahim El-Heneidi, the chair of the House's Legislative and Constitutional Affairs Committee, told reporters that the changes are necessary in order to give the SCC authority over international arbitration rulings that lack legislative legitimacy and could harm Egypt's economy. "The two new articles will give the SCC authority to revise these rulings, investigate their legitimacy, and see whether they go in line with the constitution," said El-Heneidi.
Deputy Minister of Justice Haitham El-Baqli explained that the new amendments do not provide the government with a tool to ignore international arbitration rulings.
“The changes will allow the government to refer foreign agreements and international arbitration rulings to the SCC to decide whether they are constitutional. The prime minister will send a request to the SCC, saying that he believes that a certain ruling violates a certain article in the constitution or that it lacks legislative legitimacy, and will ask the court to meet to give a final say,” El-Baqli said.
The House's schedule of debate on Sunday will include amendments to two laws regulating the service and promotion of military officers.
The House will also discuss a $400 million loan agreement between Egypt and the International Bank of Reconstruction and Development to supporting the country's health insurance system.
On Monday, the House is scheduled to discuss a draft law that aims to rid government offices of religious extremists and Muslim Brotherhood elements.
El-Heneidi said the Law on Non-Disciplinary Dismissal of Civil Servants 10/1972 will be amended to allow the automatic dismissal of civil servants who are affiliated with the Muslim Brotherhood or any other terrorist-designated organisations.
The draft law, submitted by MP Ali Badr, states that it seeks to strengthen national security and the country's administrative system against extremist and terrorist elements. "The law will give cabinet ministers a legislative tool to automatically dismiss employees and civil servants with proven links to the Muslim Brotherhood and other terrorist-designated movements," said Badr, adding that "the ministers of transport and religious Waqf (religious endowments) have lately complained that their ministries have a lot of Muslim Brotherhood sleeper cells and that they do not have the legislative tool to dismiss them."
Atef Meghawri, head of the parliamentary group of the leftist Tagammu Party, argued that in its current form the 1972 Civil Service Law makes it difficult to dismiss state employees who espouse radical ideologies.
“There is a pressing need to change this law after extremist and terrorist groups were able to infiltrate government circles in recent years, mostly in the form of sleeper cells,” said Meghawri.
“When the Muslim Brotherhood was in power in 2012 and 2013, its members proliferated in all government sectors. It is essential MPs move quickly to help cabinet ministers dismiss elements with suspected links to the Brotherhood or to any other terrorist-designated group.”
Meghawri argued the bill drafted by Badr and approved by the House’s Legislative and Constitutional Affairs Committee is covered by Article 237 of the 2014 constitution which stipulates the state must “combat all forms of terrorism and track its sources of funding.”
The draft law, however, allows employees and civil servants to appeal their dismissal decision and return to their jobs if their names are removed from the relevant terrorist lists.
The House's Tuesday schedule will see Minister of Justice Omar Marawan facing questions from 31 MPs on the poor performance of public notary offices and the lack of services in judicial courts.