The International Bar Association’s Human Rights Institute (IBAHRI) today expresses concern in relation to amendments to Egypt’s Constitutional Declaration recently announced by President Mohamed Morsi. The amendments significantly widen the powers of the President and provide his decisions with immunity from challenge or review up until the time a new constitution is enacted and fresh parliamentary elections take place next year.
Dr Phillip Tahmindjis AM, IBAHRI Director said, ‘The IBAHRI calls on President Morsi to reconsider the recent constitutional amendments in light of international standards as outlined under the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights and the United Nations Basic Principles on the Independence of the Judiciary and to recognise the critical need for respecting the independence of the judiciary as a fundamental pillar of a society that respects the rule of law and human rights.’
The IBAHRI is specifically concerned that by investing unfettered power in the office of the President, however temporarily, that the constitutional declaration undermines the rule of law and runs contrary to Egypt’s transition towards democratic reforms. Co-Chair of the IBAHRI Sternford Moyo states: ‘By preventing any legal challenge of his decisions until the election of a new lower house of parliament next year, the President has effectively placed his office above the law.’ Mr Moyo added, ‘As noted in the IBAHRI’s 2011 Egypt fact-finding mission report, “Justice at a Crossroads: The Legal Profession and the Rule of Law in the New Egypt”, an independent judiciary functions as a critical institutional mechanism providing an essential system of checks and balances of the executive and legislative branches of a democratic society ensuring the effective separation of powers and protection of the rights of citizens. Justice and respect for the rule of law cannot be achieved by undermining the judiciary but rather by working to reform and strengthen it.’
The decree announced by President Morsi also strips the judiciary of the power to dissolve the Constituent Assembly tasked with drafting Egypt’s new constitution, and the upper house of parliament (Shura Council). The IBARHI notes that Egypt’s Supreme Constitutional Court had been scheduled to give its ruling in December over the legality of the formation of the Constituent Assembly and the Shura Council.
Note to Editor
In June 2011 an IBAHRI delegation undertook a fact-finding mission to Egypt to examine the challenges facing the legal profession prior to and in the months immediately after Egypt’s revolution. A report detailing the mission's findings, conclusions and recommendations, entitled Justice at a Crossroads: The Legal Profession and the Rule of Law in Egypt, calls on Egypt’s transitional military government, future Parliament, and the Egyptian Bar Association 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. Alongside the IBAHRI’s findings, the Report includes recommendations for institutional and law reform aimed at supporting the legal profession and upholding human rights.
A copy of the report, Justice at a Crossroads: The Legal Profession and the Rule of Law in Egypt,can be accessed via the following link www.ibanet.org/Article/Detail.aspx?ArticleUid=c70b8cd2-20ad-4e59-b3c0-74582e3b7234
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