Egypt: future government urged to promote independence of the judiciary by IBAHRI

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In a report released today, the International Bar Association’s Human Rights Institute (IBAHRI) urges the future Egyptian government to take action to promote the independence of the judiciary and prosecution services, in order to strengthen the rule of law in Egypt.

The 85-page report Separating Law and Politics: Challenges to the Independence of Judges and Prosecutors in Egypt  found that, although judicial independence is protected as a principle at the highest level, in practice and in process, the executive (particularly through the Ministry of Justice) is given wide powers over judges, providing scope for abuse. Furthermore, the report calls on the transitional and future government to rectify the country’s record of selective prosecutions by instituting a meaningful and peaceful transitional justice process that guarantees independence and impartiality.

Baroness Helena Kennedy QC, IBAHRI Co-Chair, remarked, ‘During the three successive regimes which followed Hosni Mubarak’s fall in 2011, the prosecution of opposition forces has been enthusiastically pursued. These prosecutorial trends must be addressed in order to ensure the fair and effective administration of justice in Egypt.’  She added, ‘The 2014 Constitution is a significant improvement on its 2012 predecessor and represents a fresh start for Egypt. The IBAHRI strongly encourages the new Egyptian government to entrench standards protecting the independence of the judiciary and the prosecution, in order to protect the rule of law today and for generations to come.’

The report is based on the findings of an IBAHRI investigative mission to Cairo in June 2013, and subsequent remote investigations held between August and November 2013. In order to strengthen the rule of law in Egypt, specific recommendations to the future government are made in the report, including:

  • end the involvement of the Minister of Justice in the assignment of judges and ensure that the allocation of individual cases is undertaken based on judicial specialisms or on a random, transparent basis;
  • adopt measures to remove any other influence by the Minister of Justice over judicial work;
  • adopt, with international assistance, a series of published guidelines governing the use of prosecutorial discretion to initiate cases; and
  • establish a transitional justice process including a fact-finding commission, ideally with international involvement.

Sternford Moyo, IBAHRI Co-Chair, said ‘The IBAHRI’s recommendations come at a critical time for Egypt, which finds itself at another political crossroads. The upcoming parliamentary and presidential elections present a valuable opportunity for the future government to promote and protect the independence of the judicial and prosecutorial services in Egypt.’ He added, ‘The importance of an independent judicial system in order to protect the right to a fair trial cannot be stressed enough. In this regard, the occasion for Egypt to fortify this fundamental principle of a democratic society is now. The IBAHRI is hopeful that it will.’

Separating Law and Politics: Challenges to the Independence of Judges and Prosecutors in Egypt will be launched with a high-level panel discussion at The Law Society of England and Wales on 10 February 2014. Panellists include:

  • Professor Cherif Bassiouni, distinguished Research Professor of Law Emeritus at DePaul University College of Law, author and United Nations war crimes expert, Chicago, United States;
  • Ms Amal Alamuddin, UK barrister specialising in international law and human rights, and IBAHRI mission rapporteur, London, UK; and
  • Mr Nasser Amin, Executive Director of the Arab Center for Independence of the Judiciary and the Legal Profession, Cairo, Egypt.

Click here to download Separating Law and Politics: Challenges to the Independence of Judges and Prosecutors in Egypt (English text).

Click here to download Separating Law and Politics: Challenges to the Independence of Judges and Prosecutors in Egypt (Arabic text).

Click here to watch a short film giving background to the report and highlighting some of the report's findings and selected recommendations.


Notes to the Editor

  1. The IBAHRI fact-finding mission took place from 24 – 28 June 2013. During the visit, the IBAHRI held over 20 meetings with more than 45 key stakeholders comprised of: a cross-section of the Egyptian Judiciary including judges of the Cairo Court of Appeal, the Supreme Judicial Council and representatives of the Judges’ Club; representatives of the Ministry of Justice; a legal advisor to the Presidency; legal advisors to the government; a representative of the Egyptian Bar Association; representatives of the Al-Wasat Party, the National Salvation Front, and the Social Democratic Party; representatives of the National Council for Human Rights, the Egyptian Organisation for Human Rights, the Arab Center for the Independence of the Judiciary and the Legal Profession (ACIJLP); youth activists; and members of the diplomatic community.

    Subsequent in person and remote interviews were conducted between August and November 2013 with: the British Embassy in Cairo; Nasser Amin of the ACIJLP; Dr Muhammad Soudan and Dr Amr Mustafa of the Brotherhood; Mona Zulficar, lawyer and member of the 2013 constitutional drafting committee; and Gamal Eid of the Arab Network for Human Rights Information. The IBAHRI also requested an interview with a representative from the Ministry of Justice under Egypt’s interim administration; however, this request was turned down.

    An analysis of applicable domestic and international legal instruments, secondary sources, including NGO and UN human rights reports, academic articles and media reports was also undertaken and the report was compiled in accordance with the Guidelines on International Human Rights Fact-Finding Visits and Reports (the ‘Lund-London Guidelines’).
  2. The International Bar Association (IBA), established in 1947, is the world’s leading organisation of international legal practitioners, bar associations and law societies. Through its global membership of individual lawyers, law firms, bar associations and law societies it influences the development of international law reform and shapes the future of the legal profession throughout the world.

    The IBA’s administrative office is in London. Regional offices are located in: São Paulo, Brazil; Seoul, South Korea; and Washington DC, US, while the International Bar Association’s International Criminal Court Programme (IBA ICC) is managed from an office in The Hague.

    The International Bar Association’s Human Rights Institute (IBAHRI) works to promote, protect and enforce human rights under a just rule of law, and to preserve the independence of the judiciary and the legal profession worldwide.

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