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Egypt: Parliament Approves an Amendment to the Judicial Authority Law

(May 2, 2017) On April 26, 2017, the Council of Representatives, the Egyptian parliament, passed Law No. 13 of 2017 amending the Judicial Authority Law, Law No. 46 of 1972.  (Law No. 13 of 2017, 17 AL JARIDDAH AL-RASMYIAH [OFFICIAL GAZETTE] (Annex) (Apr. 27, 2017) (in Arabic); Law 46 of 1972, 40 AL JARIDDAH AL-RASMYIAH (Oct. 1, 1972) (in Arabic).) The Legislative and Constitutional Affairs Committee, after a brief deliberation among its members, submitted the new amendment to the Council of Representatives for a general vote. Twenty-four of the Committee members approved the suggested amendment, fourteen rejected it, and two abstained.  During the general voting session, the new amendment was passed by two-thirds of the Members of Parliament.  (Parliament Approves Judicial Authority Law, Disregards State Council’s Comments, EGYPT INDEPENDENT (Apr. 26, 2017).)

The approved amendment stipulates that the President of Egypt must directly appoint a chief justice for each of the main four judicial bodies in the country. Those judicial bodies are the State Lawsuits Authority, the Administrative Prosecution, the Court of Cassation, and the State Council.  The chief justice position is a four-year appointment, but  a term may be cut short due to retirement.  (Rana Mamdouh, Parliamentary Committee Approves Judicial Appointment Bill in Surprise Move, MADAMASR (Mar. 28, 2017).)

Reactions to the Amendment

Before the parliamentary voting session, an advisory committee at the State Council (the Administrative Court) had sent a report to the Council of Representatives arguing againstthe amendment.  The Legislative and Constitutional Affairs Committee stated in its own report that the suggested amendment may be deemed unconstitutional on the basis of article 185 of the Constitution of  2014.  Article 185 provides that the judicial bodies must be consulted concerning any draft laws governing their respective affairs, which did not happen in this case.  (Parliament Approves Judicial Authority Law, Disregards State Council’s Comments, supra; Constitution of the Arab Republic of Egypt, 2014, Egyptian State Information Service website (unofficial translation).)

Egypt’s Judges’ Club, representing Egyptian judges nationwide, has opposed the suggested amendment. The Judges’ Club considers the amendment a blow to the independence of the judiciary.  (Mahmoud Aziz, Egypt Judges’ Voice Strong Objections to Draft Law Regulating Appointment of Heads of Judicial Bodies, AL AHRAM (Mar. 28, 2017).) The Club also stated that the amended Judicial Authority Law stipulates that the chiefs of judicial bodies are selected based on seniority by the Supreme Judicial Councils and that the President of Egypt ratifies the councils’ selections. However, the new amendment enhances the power of the Executive branch by permitting the President to pick the justices directly, based on the nomination of the Supreme Judicial Council and national assembly of each judicial body.  (Id.)