Senior Egyptian judges meet to discuss judiciary law

Ahram Online, Tuesday 28 May 2013

Shura Council is reviewing amendments to law on judiciary which has been opposed by many judges

Egypt's Supreme Judicial Council (SJC) is holding a meeting on Tuesday with the Judges Club, an elected association of Egyptian judges, to discuss a response to an earlier announcement by the Shura Council that it would review controversial proposed amendments to a law on the judiciary.

Supreme Judicial Council head Mohamed Metwalli said that all options are on the table for a unified response to the Shura Council's decision.

On Saturday, Egypt’s Shura Council (the upper house of parliament, currently endowed with legislative powers) referred three proposed amendments to Egypt's 1972 judicial authority law to the Shura Council's constitutional and legislative affairs committee for examination.

Earlier this week, the general assembly of Egypt's Appeal Court announced that the country's new constitution stipulates that only the members of the Cabinet – and not members of the Shura Council have the right to propose and draft laws.

The draft amendments – tabled in April by the Wasat Party and endorsed by the Muslim Brotherhood's Freedom and Justice Party – were criticised by many judicial officials at the time, aggravating a long-running political tug-of-war between Egypt's judiciary and new Islamist government.

The proposed amendments would see the reduction of the retirement age for judges from 70 to 60, effectively pensioning off about one quarter of Egypt's 13,000 serving judges.

Proponents of the legislative changes argue that the retirement age had been gradually increased from 60 to 70 by the Mubarak regime in an effort to prolong the terms of pro-regime judges.

The ongoing political standoff between the presidency and the judiciary began in earnest last November, when President Mohamed Morsi issued a decree sacking Mubarak-era prosecutor-general Abdel-Maguid Mahmoud and appointing Talaat Abdullah in his place.

At the time, the move prompted uproar among much of the judiciary, with a number of judges accusing Morsi of infringing on judicial independence. According to Egyptian law, they argued, the SJC was the only entity with the right to appoint a new prosecutor-general.

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