In Egypt the judiciary is not concerned with justice

While citizens in any country around the world consider that their resort to the courts and the judiciary is a step to obtaining their rights and achieving justice, this rule appears in Egypt to be different, and citizens often regard judicial rulings as a sign of injustice, not justice. Throughout the successive military regimes that have ruled Egypt since the founding of the Republic and the king’s removal in 1952, governments have endeavored to politicise the Egyptian judiciary and strip it of its independence. With the accumulation of attempts and the continuation of gradual steps, the Egyptian judiciary has become a tool in the regime’s hands to suppress opponents, abuse activists, issue harsh punitive sentences, and pretrial detention.

The use of judges and prosecutors increased in suppressing the rebellious people after the January 25 revolution, especially after the 2013 military coup and after the overthrow of President Mohamed Morsi, the first elected civilian president to rule the country. Demands for the judiciary’s independence and ensuring its integrity were part of the January 2011 revolution, and trust in judges and the demand for their full supervision over electoral processes were among the points agreed upon by the opposition forces. However, the strange thing is that those who confronted their independence were some of the judges led by the Judges Club leaders loyal to authorities.

Judicial independence

The destruction of the Egyptian judiciary began at an accelerated pace during the late President Hosni Mubarak era when he allowed police officers to be transformed into judges. Through this gate, men with authority took direct control over the judicial facilities. They then started attempts to prevent any new blood flow to the judiciary by limiting appointments to the sons of judges and restricting those outside this facility to join. It has become remarkable that judges and prosecutors became a party and a tool in the conflict since 2013 between the military coup and opponents, especially the Muslim Brotherhood.

The total death sentences for political opponents exceeded 1,000, in addition to tens of thousands of pretrial detainees who were imprisoned with judicial sentences. These rulings cast a shadow of doubt among those interested in Egypt’s public affairs regarding the judiciary’s stance on the ongoing conflict. Is it a party or a just ruling?

Questions about the relationship of the Egyptian judiciary with power were not limited to Egyptians but instead moved to international arenas, which prompted Kenneth Roth, director of Human Rights Watch, to tweet on his account, accusing Abdel Fattah al-Sisi of manipulating the judiciary.

Al-Sisi made a confusing statement to the BBC on the occasion of his first visit to London when he said: “The Brotherhood is part of Egypt, and the death sentences will not be carried out.” Over time, the circle of suspicion increased in Egypt, and it was not only the Brotherhood who was subjected to pretrial detention and imprisonment, but the circle included revolutionary figures such as Alaa Abdelfattah, Ahmed Maher and Ahmed Douma. Some spent a long time in pretrial detention, such as Aya Hegazy, who remained in pretrial detention for more than two years after being accused of forming a secret organisation for street children.

No trust

In May 2014, a survey conducted by the Pew Centre for Studies (American) revealed a decline in Egyptians’ confidence in the judiciary, as the poll showed that 58 per cent of Egyptians consider its role negative, while only 41 per cent believe the opposite. The famous writer Fahmi Huwaidi touched on the issue in an article in which he said that “the reputation of the Egyptian judiciary has become in need of salvation.” He added, “Not only because world capitals and international human rights organisations have become suspicious of its independence and impartiality, but also because confidence in the judiciary has largely declined within Egypt itself.”

It is noteworthy that the constitutional amendments last year in Egypt included introducing six new provisions related to the judiciary. These six provisions included controversial articles, such as cancelling the independent budgets of judicial authorities and bodies and granting the president the right to choose the heads of judicial authorities and bodies, including the Supreme Constitutional Court, in addition to selecting the attorney general. It also included establishing a supreme council for agencies and bodies headed by the president to consider the terms of appointments, promotions, and delegation of judges.

These amendments also stipulated the abolition of the state council’s authority to review draft contracts to which the state or one of its bodies is a party and limiting its power to review and formulate draft laws.