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Egypt: Ministerial Resolution Grants County Chiefs Authority to Arrest and Detain

(Aug. 18, 2015) On August 12, 2015, the Minister of Justice issued a statement announcing that he has granted the county chiefs across Egypt the legal right to arrest and detain individuals suspected of damaging public or private property or violating construction codes. (Press Release, Ministry of Justice, The Minister Grants Right of Judicial Arrest to County Chiefs, Ministry of Justice website (Aug. 13, 2015) (in Arabic).)

The Ministry of Justice contacted all the counties in the country on August 11, 2015, to inform them about the new policy. The Ministry also announced that the new policy is aimed at shortening a complicated, lengthy process of legal procedures needed to stop violations against construction codes and property damage. (Ministry of Justice Grants the Legal Right of Judicial Arrest to County Chiefs, AL WAFD (Aug. 11, 2015) (in Arabic).)

A number of legal scholars have criticized the Minister’s announcement. They voiced their concern that county chiefs do not have the knowledge of when and how to use such an authority. They also warned that there is a possibility that some of the county chiefs might abuse this authority for personal gain. (Neighborhood Heads Assume New Judicial Police Powers amid Experts’ Skepticism, EGYPT DAILY NEWS (Aug. 12, 2015).)

On the other hand, some legal scholars endorsed the new policy, arguing that the Law of Criminal Procedure grants the authority to arrest and detain people to police officers, the general prosecutor, and their deputies. Accordingly, the county chiefs could be classified as deputies of the general prosecutors and police officers, especially if those chiefs are being supervised by either police officers or the general prosecutors. (Id.; Code of Criminal Procedure, 1937 (as last amended by Law No. 95, 2003), art. 23, Mohamoon-Montada website (in Arabic).)