Egypt’s proposed new criminal procedures code consolidates individual rights and freedoms

Amr Kandil , Friday 8 Mar 2024

A House subcommittee has issued a draft of the proposed new Code of Criminal Procedures, adding and amending key provisions - among them are provisions reducing the maximum duration of pretrial detention, and regulating travel bans and asset freezes.



MP Ehab El-Tamawy, the head of the subcommittee, said the draft law will be presented to the House of Representatives for consideration during plenary sessions.

The proposed law consolidates the authority of the Public Prosecution to investigate, initiate and initiate all criminal proceedings as the custodian with jurisdiction over all crimes and the representative of society.

It strengthens compliance of legislation with the constitutional guarantees that regulate the rights and freedoms of individuals, especially in cases of arrest, searching people, entering and searching homes.

It also reconfirms regulations on the powers of judicial officers in the necessity of obtaining a reasoned judicial order to execute legal measures.

According to the proposed law, pretrial detention in crimes that carry the death penalty or life imprisonment will be limited to 18 months rather than two years, the state’s news agency MENA reported this week.

The amendments also reduce the maximum period of pretrial detention for misdemeanours to four months from six, and for felonies to 12 months from 18.

Furthermore, the draft legislation stipulates approaching pretrial detention as a precautionary measure rather than a punishment, and establishing other alternative tools, according to a statement by the subcommittee.

Meanwhile, the amendments also stipulate measures to ensure that travel bans and asset freezes do not violate individuals' rights to freedom of movement, residence, or protection of private property.

The new law would guarantee the right to legal representation for every defendant, ensuring no trial takes place without a lawyer.

It also upholds the right for the accused to remain silent during interrogations as a constitutional guarantee.

Furthermore, the draft abolished incarceration as a method of ensuring the collection of fines owed to the state by those convicted in court, replacing it with mandatory public service.

It also seeks to place correctional, rehabilitation, and detention facilities under full judicial supervision to provide appropriate health and social conditions while respecting the rights and freedoms of convicts.

The new law also enshrines the rights of individuals with disabilities and those suffering from mental or psychological illnesses throughout the legal procedures.

Additionally, it stipulates the postponement of certain penalties for pregnant women in alignment with Islamic Sharia, international conventions, and treaties.

Other provisions include reorganizing the right to challenge judgments rendered in absentia to ensure defence rights for convicts.

The draft also aims to provide effective protection for suspects and witnesses to ensure fair litigation procedures.

Additional appeal opportunity

In January, the House of Representatives approved amendments to the Criminal Procedures Code that grant felony convicts additional opportunities to appeal rulings before final verdicts are issued.

This amendment granted individuals convicted by a criminal court the right to file a preliminary appeal of their verdict before appealing to the Court of Cassation, whose rulings are final and cannot be appealed.

Per these amendments, individuals convicted in absentia for felonies maintain the right to a retrial if they voluntarily surrender or are apprehended by authorities.

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