Saturday,25 November, 2017
Current issue | Issue 1122, 15 - 21 November 2012
Saturday,25 November, 2017
Issue 1122, 15 - 21 November 2012

Ahram Weekly

Threats of a boycott

Although their demands may be legitimate, the way judges go about achieving what they want is questionable, Mona El-Nahhas reports

Al-Ahram Weekly

Threats to suspend work at courts and boycott judicial supervision of the voting over the new constitution were made by judges during an emergency general assembly of the Cairo Judges Club on 8 November held mainly to announce the rejection by judges of the draft.
“Judges will not be a poisonous dagger used to stab Egyptians in the back via their supervision over such a constitution,” club chairman Ahmed Al-Zend said, stressing that the adamant stance judges are now adopting does not aim at personal gains. “It’s for the realisation of justice which is the demand of every citizen.”
The judges called on the Constituent Assembly, assigned with drafting the constitution, to strike out the judiciary authority section and all articles related to judges from the draft, noting that a committee including members of judges clubs together with the Supreme Judiciary Council (SJC) will finish drafting this chapter and submit the new articles soon. According to judges, articles included in this chapter undermine the independence of the judiciary.
Professor of constitutional law and a member of the Constituent Assembly Gaber Nassar agrees with judges about the many “faulty articles” which, he said, marred the section on judiciary authority. “The large majority of the Constituent Assembly members did not take part in drafting the articles of the judiciary authority which was not present when the draft was being discussed,” Nassar was quoted as saying.
During the assembly, judges voiced their strong opposition to the constitutional articles which they said turned the state litigation authority into a civil prosecution body, stressing that such a step would reduce the capacities currently lent to the prosecution-general.
The general assembly also objected to any attempt to merge judicial authorities in the constitution. The general assembly recommended that the article defining the status of the prosecutor-general and his term of office of four years should be struck from the draft. Al-Zend viewed the article as targeting the Prosecutor-General Abdel-Meguid Mahmoud after recent attempts to dislodge failed because of several legal and constitutional barriers. “The prosecutor-general will not leave his post until 2016,” Al-Zend said, addressing the Constituent Assembly.
The performance of the prosecutor-general has been subject to criticism since his appointment by ousted president Hosni Mubarak in 2006. Before the 25 January Revolution last year, Mahmoud upheld several rulings clearing officials of the former regime.
After the revolution, accusations were levelled at Mahmoud that he presented weak evidence to courts during the prosecution of former regime figures, many arguing that he had been behind clearing those charged with killing demonstrators during the revolution. A campaign that seeks to question the prosecutor-general before the SJC has been launched.
Mahmoud was at the judges’ general assembly. However, he left before recommendations were issued which stressed that unless judges’ reservations were taken into consideration, another general assembly would be held to define the tools for implementing escalatory measures.
The recommendations produced varied reaction in judicial and political circles. Momtaz Metwalli, chairman of the SJC, and who briefly attended the general assembly, stated that the SJC, while objecting to the draft constitution, will not abide by the recommendations passed by the Cairo Judges Club. “The SJC has a special status and I am not responsible for what others say,” Metwalli said. The SJC is now working on a detailed memorandum which will include the council’s views regarding the draft constitution. The memorandum is due to be submitted to the Constituent Assembly soon.
“Nobody will accept any aggression against the judiciary authority or any undermining of the independence of the judiciary or members of the prosecution-general,” Metwalli said at the opening of the general assembly.
Metwalli’s statements contradicted with what Al-Zend said about the SJC’s commitment to the general assembly recommendations.
On Sunday, hundreds of judicial members working for the State Litigation Authority protested in front of the Shura Council, where the Constituent Assembly holds its sessions, to express support for the assembly and to protest against attempts to pressure the assembly into abolishing articles by the civil prosecution.
Judges belonging to the independent judiciary current were not in favour of statements issued by Al-Zend whom they see as a former regime figure.
Zakaria Abdel-Aziz, founder of the Judges for Egypt Movement, told Al-Ahram Weekly that Al-Zend’s calls for boycotting judicial supervision over any future referendum or poll will not get any response from judges.
Mahmoud Al-Khodeiri, former deputy chief justice of the Court of Cassation, said that Al-Zend does not represent judges, daring him to carry out his threats. He will not find judges who will back him up, Al-Khodeiri predicted.
Interviewed by Al-Jazeera TV, Justice Minister Ahmed Mekki said on Sunday that judges will supervise the upcoming referendum and will not respond to the boycott calls.
On his twitter account, prominent media expert Hamdi Kandil said “regardless of the legitimacy of judges’ demands, Al-Zend’s threats are nothing but cheap blackmail, which is unfortunately committed by judges.”
Judicial members of the Administrative Prosecution, while supporting the judges’ demands, said in a statement that they will take part in the judicial supervision, viewing it as “a national duty”.
Meanwhile, lawyers held a press conference at the headquarters of their syndicate on Sunday to discuss how to introduce their proposed articles into the final draft of the constitution. The article which stipulates that lawyers are independent and are partners of the judicial authority in achieving justice and hence should enjoy the same immunity as members of the prosecution-general, tops the articles proposed by lawyers.
Deputy syndicate chairman, Mohamed Al-Damati, said lawyers will also fight to amend articles 32 and 65 of the draft constitution in a way that would guarantee the independence of lawyers and protect the rights of those arrested or referred to trial. A delegation from the syndicate council on Monday met Hossam Al-Ghiriani, chairman of the Constituent Assembly, to present to him the views of lawyers.

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