Friday,16 November, 2018
Current issue | Issue 1229, (15 -21 January 2015)
Friday,16 November, 2018
Issue 1229, (15 -21 January 2015)

Ahram Weekly

Justice ‘eulogised’

President Abdel-Fattah Al-Sisi attended celebrations marking Judges’ Day, Reem Leila reports

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Al-Ahram Weekly

President Abdel-Fattah Al-Sisi visited the Higher Judiciary House (HJH) in downtown Cairo on the occasion of Judges’ Day on 10 January. Al-Sisi arrived early in the morning amid heavy security. He was met by Mohamed Hossam, head of the Court of Cassation, and Mohamed Eid Mahgoub, head of the Supreme Judiciary Council (SJC).

After a private meeting with SJC members, Al-Sisi delivered a short speech praising the judiciary and prosecution services in upholding justice. A second meeting was then held with, among others, Judge Ahmed Al-Sisi, the president’s brother. 

The president used the occasion to call for a redoubling of efforts to rebuild the nation, and called on the judiciary to guarantee citizens’ rights and freedoms. Al-Sisi also underlined the independence of the judiciary.

“Since I came to power last year I have made it clear to everyone that I do not interfere in judicial [matters],” he said.

While international and local human rights organisations have criticised judges for issuing mass death penalties after hasty court hearings Al-Sisi expressed his gratitude for “the honourable work of judicial bodies.”

“Egypt’s judges will remain the bastion for justice. All citizens, whether powerful or weak, are equal before the law,” he said.

Hossam praised Al-Sisi for his support of judges. “The president backed us when some foreign countries complained about verdicts — especially in cases involving the Muslim Brotherhood. I would like to confirm to everybody here that there is no intervention in judicial affairs,” said Hossam.

“Under the previous regime, which respected neither judges nor judicial authority, we were the target of many constitutional violations.”

Al-Sisi’s visit was lauded as an attempt to heal the rift that opened between the judiciary and executive under former president Mohamed Morsi. Morsi’s notorious November 2012 constitutional declaration placed his actions beyond any judicial appeal. He further antagonised judges by sacking the prosecutor general, and placing the Shura Council and the Constituent Assembly’s decisions beyond judicial review.

Judges’ Day was inaugurated in 2009. On 9 January 2011 the day was used by judges to honour Hosni Mubarak, who was presented with a specially minted medal. When Mubarak was overthrown the following month, Judges’ Day was put on hold. It was not celebrated under Mohamed Morsi or interim president Adli Mansour.

Al-Sisi’s visit may have been appreciated by judges but it has been criticised by human rights organisations.

Meetings at which the executive and the judiciary eulogise one another appear to be a peculiarly Egyptian event, said Hafez Abu Saeda, head of the Egyptian Organisation for Human Rights.

“It seems only to happen here. Former president Hosni Mubarak did the same thing and now Al-Sisi is following in his footsteps,” said Abu Saeda. The expressions of support shared between the executive and the judiciary, argued Abu Saeda, serves only to reinforce perceptions that judges are under the control of the executive.

Al-Sisi, Abu Saeda continued, effectively appoints the heads of all important associations. “He appoints the head of the judicial authority just as he appoints the heads of public universities and the deans of different faculties.”

“He controls the judiciary and legislative authorities, just as he controls education. Appointments — whether for judges, universities or faculties — are contingent on security reports, points out Abu Saeda. And this means that the president is in control of everything.

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