The Arab Association of Constitutional Law’s Judiciary Working Group has been engaging in a debate on the recent changes to the judiciary in Egypt. The substance of that discussion has been summarized and translated below. The main submissions came from Tarek Abdel Aal (Advocate before the Court of Cassation) and Ahmed Sisi (Counsellor at the Majles al-Dawla, or State Council).
On 26 April 2017, Egypt’s House of Representatives approved, by a two–thirds majority vote of members, amendments to the Judicial Authority Law. The Parliament’s approval came in a general session, when MPs were suddenly asked to include the bill in the session’s agenda and vote on it, a few hours after the Legislative Committee referred the law to the general session. Uncharacteristically, the vote was held without any prior debate on the observations made earlier by the State Council on the bill, or consideration of why the Legislative Department of the State Council had rejected the bill on the grounds of unconstitutionality. The parliament is under no obligation to take into consideration the State Council’s opinion on these issues, though it typically does.
The law was promulgated the next day, on 27 April 2017, as Law No. 13 of 2017. It amended the laws of the judicial bodies (the Administrative Prosecution Authority, the State Lawsuits Authority, the Court of Cassation and the State Council). The amendments are considered by many to be a flagrant intervention in the justice sector by the executive authority, largely undermining the independence of the judiciary and the separation of powers. The amendments are viewed by some as a punishment directed at Judge Dakroury, who gave the confirming Egyptian sovereignty over Tiran and Sanafir islands, by depriving him of the State Council Chairmanship.
The amendments address the system of appointing the heads of four judicial institutions by changing the relevant articles in their governing laws in a similar way.