Judges Club to hold emergency meeting amid escalating judicial crisis

Tuesday 23-04-2013 05:46 PM
Judges Club to hold emergency meeting amid escalating judicial crisis

The Judges Club, an unofficial elected judicial union, will hold an extraordinary general assembly on Wednesday at the Supreme Court to discuss the current judicial crisis, accusations made against the judiciary, and the newly proposed judicial authority law.

The meeting will be attended by members of the general prosecution, the High Constitutional Court (HCC), the State Council, the administrative prosecution and the state lawsuits authority, said Head of the Judges Club Ahmed El-Zend on Tuesday. In addition to the judges, only the media will be allowed to attend.

The general assembly comes as the Shura Council (Parliament's upper house that temporarily holds legislative authorities) is planning to discuss a new judicial authority law – proposed by the Islamist Wasat Party - which would lower the retirement age of judges from 70 to 60, and thus push over 3,000 into forced retirement.

It also comes a day after the resignation of Justice Minister Ahmed Mekki in protest at not only the proposed law, but the corruption accusations levelled at judges by members of the Muslim Brotherhood and their Islamist allies.

Thousands of Brotherhood supporters demonstrated at the High Court in Cairo on Friday demanding a "purge" of Egypt's "corrupt judiciary" after several MPs of the Freedom and Justice Party (the Brotherhood's political arm) and Wasat Party  launched scathing attacks against the judiciary.

They accused a large number of them of corruption and of leading a counter-revolution against President Mohamed Morsi, who hails from the Brotherhood.

The Judges Club had also held a press conference on Monday to comment on the ongoing judicial crisis. El-Zend voiced his rejection of the recently proposed judicial authority law, asserting that the draft legislation targeted Egypt's judiciary. He considered the law an infringement on judicial independence and an attempt to "Brotherhoodise" the judiciary.

Egypt's main opposition bloc, the National Salvation Front (NSF), also held a press conference Monday slamming the proposed law, condemning it as an infringement on people's rights and freedoms and calling for a demonstration to take place in front of the Shura Council on the day the law is discussed, which is yet to be decided.

After he submitted his resignation, Justice Minister Mekki also said he would only resume his post if guarantees are made that the judiciary will remain independent. He had earlier expressed his belief the proposed law would infringe on the judiciary's independence.  

The controversial legislative amendments made to the judicial authority law were referred by the Wasat Party to the council's legislative and constitutional affairs committee for discussion last week.

If approved by the committee, it will be referred back to the Shura Council for further discussion. In case it is also approved by the council, it will be referred back to the committee to discuss the amendments one by one.

According to statements made to Ahram Online by Wasat Party MP Mohamed Youssef, the amendments aim at "purging the judiciary."

The law amendments aim to cut short the age of retirement for judges from 70 years old to 60, which in turn will retire what he described as old regime judges.

The amendments also aim at granting the president the right to appoint the prosecutor-general. The current law (Law 64 of 1972) gives the Supreme Judicial Council the right to nominate three judges for the position of prosecutor-general, while the president's authority is limited to selecting one of the finalists.

The current prosecutor-general, Talaat Abdullah, who was appointed by President Mohamed Morsi before the new constitution was passed, has already been widely condemned by the opposition as a Brotherhood loyalist who has been working only for the group's benefit.

On 27 March, a court ruling reversed President Morsi's November 2012 decision, sacking former prosecutor-general Abdel-Meguid Mahmoud and replacing him with Abdullah, although the ruling was never applied.

The Supreme Administrative Court is also to rule on 12 May on the constitutionality of the current Shura Council.

The parliament's lower house, the People's Assembly, was dismantled last year after the HCC declared the law that regulated the last parliamentary elections unconstitutional. Legal experts argue that the Shura Council should be dissolved on the same grounds.

A new lower chamber of parliament is yet to be elected under the name the House of Representatives, which will hold legislative powers in place of the Shura Council once formed.

As the crisis escalates between the judiciary and Egypt's Islamist parties, mainly represented by the Islamist-dominated legislative council, President Morsi held a meeting with senior judges on Monday.

At the meeting Morsi assured attendees that the independence of the judiciary will not be infringed on. However, the president hinted he will not be taking steps to halt the judicial authority legislation, stressing that he "trusted institutions to perform their responsibilities without interference by other branches of government."

facebook comments