IBAHRI report calls for reform to strengthen the rule of law in Egypt

In a report published today, the International Bar Association’s Human Rights Institute (IBAHRI) calls on Egypt’s transitional military government, future Parliament, and the Egyptian Bar Association (EBA) to carry out wide-ranging reform to strengthen the rule of law in the country and to address challenges faced by Egypt’s legal profession.

The 81-page report, ‘Justice at a Crossroads: The Legal Profession and the Rule of Law in the New Egypt’, examines the challenges facing lawyers prior to and in the months immediately after Egypt’s revolution. The Report follows an IBAHRI fact-finding delegation to the country where IBAHRI found that a vibrant legal profession and independent Bar will have an essential role to play in defending human rights and advancing law reform in Egypt but that serious obstacles facing the legal profession must be urgently addressed to ensure it can properly fulfil this role. These include the:

  • Use of military and emergency courts which lack due process and independence;
  • Declining standards in legal education, inadequate professional training and over-regulation of lawyers; and
  • Institutional weakness and politicisation of the EBA, which is not working effectively to represent and protect lawyers, or advocate on human rights.

Alongside the IBAHRI’s findings, the Report includes recommendations for institutional and law reform aimed at supporting the legal profession and upholding human rights. The recommendations, which will be debated today at 18h30 in Committee Room 5, the House of Commons, Westminster, in London, UK, include:

  • Ending the state of emergency and repeal of the Emergency Law (Law No 162 of 1958);
  • The abolition of emergency state security courts;
  • Amending the Military Code of Justice to clearly restrict the jurisdiction of military courts to military personnel and military offences;
  • The review of all convictions of civilians handed down by military courts and emergency courts since January 2011 and where possible granting the right to a re-trial in a civilian court in full accordance with international fair trial standards;
  • Strengthening the provision of training to the judiciary, including by experts on international fair trial and other human rights standards;
  • Ensuring and publicly stating that any new legislation introduced will afford defendants full due process as provided under Article 14 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights;
  • Following fresh Bar Council elections, the EBA’s new leadership should do much more to fulfil its mandate to regulate, educate and protect Egypt’s legal profession; and
  • Ensuring defence counsel and other lawyers are not subject to arrest or harassment for carrying out their professional duties; lawyers’ freedom of expression, particularly in matters concerning the administration of justice and human rights, must be respected.

Following renewed violence in Egypt, and on the first day of Egypt’s much anticipated parliamentary elections, an IBAHRI panel discussion will ask if Egyptians’ calls for human rights and justice can now be met. The moderator will be Dr Phillip Tahmindjis, IBAHRI Co-Director, and the panellists:

  • Amal Alamuddin, Mission rapporteur and Barrister at Doughty Street Chambers;
  • Dr Maha Azzam, Associate Fellow, Middle East and North Africa Programme, Chatham House;
  • Sherif Elsayed-Ali, Egyptian Human Rights Activist; and
  • Mervat Rishmawi, Fellow, Human Rights Centre, University of Essex and former Legal Advisor to Amnesty International Middle East and North Africa Programme.

Sternford Moyo, IBAHRI Co-Chair and former president of the Zimbabwe Law Society commented, ‘Respect for the rule of law and human rights has been among the main demands of the Egyptian people during Egypt’s historic revolution. At this critical moment in Egypt’s transition to democracy, the rule of law is still under threat.’ He added, ‘Authorities should prioritise institutional and legal reform aimed at supporting the legal profession and upholding human rights and the rule of law.’

Click here to download the full IBAHRI report ‘Justice at a Crossroads: The Legal Profession and the Rule of Law in the New Egypt’ in English - an Arabic version will be launched in Cairo in mid-January 2012.

Click here to download the executive summary of the Report and recommendations in Arabic.

Contact Oaj.Gilani@int-bar.org to register for the panel discussion on Monday 28 November 2011 being held between 18h30 and 20h00 at Committee Room 5, House of Commons, London  SW1A 0AA.

ENDS

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