Saturday,24 February, 2018
Current issue | Issue 1210, (21 - 27 August 2014)
Saturday,24 February, 2018
Issue 1210, (21 - 27 August 2014)

Ahram Weekly

Unravelling the legal tangle

A new committee is tasked with making sense of Egypt’s many conflicting laws. Reem Leila reports

Al-Ahram Weekly

The Supreme Committee for Legislative Reform (SCLR), formed last week by presidential decree 187/2014, will be headed by Prime Minister Ibrahim Mehleb and include the ministers of justice, transitional justice and parliamentary affairs, the Grand Mufti, the head of the State Council, the deputy head of Al-Azhar, three professors of law, two judges and two lawyers.

The SCLR will oversee the work of six sub-committees. The economic committee will be headed by Hassan Al-Bassiouni, with Hesham Ragab as rapporteur; the social committee will be headed by Sameh Ashour, chairman of Lawyers’ Syndicate, with Atef Abdel- Hamid as rapporteur; the administrative committee will be headed by Hassan Al-Badrawi, with Monsef Naguib as rapporteur; the national security committee will be headed by Magdi Al-Aagati, with Ahmed Awad Belal as rapporteur; the justice committee will be headed by Mohamed Eid Mahgoub, with lawyer Mohamed Bahaa Abu Shoqa as rapporteur and the education committee by Salah Fawzi, with Saber Ammar as rapporteur.

Mehleb told reporters the SCLR’s mandate is to overhaul existing legislation in line with the new constitution and in a manner conducive to fostering economic growth. 

“The sub-committees will research and review key laws to simplify adjudication and facilitate its procedures,” said Mehleb.

There is an arsenal of economic legislation that is a burden on investor, says Hani Sareieddin, professor of commercial and maritime law at Cairo University.

“Egypt has a business environment that is unable to attract investors. Overhauling a raft of often conflicting laws is essential,” says Sareieddin.

Special attention will be paid to draft laws and amendments formulated over the last year, including changes to tax laws and the state’s draft budget. The tax imposed on capital gains and share dividends will be reviewed, as well as a tax of around five per cent on annual incomes exceeding LE one million.

“The five per cent tax was an attempt to achieve a more progressive tax regime and at the same time help close the budget deficit. But the move requires the introduction of amendments to the income law,” said Sareieddin, adding, “The committee is also mandated to review laws covering harassment and the parliamentary elections.”

After finalising draft legislation the committee will refer the new texts back to the cabinet which will then present them to the State Council’s legislation department for revision, says legal activist Negad Al-Borai. “The prime minister will provide the president with monthly reports on the committee’s activities. The most urgent legislative changes are expected to be on the president’s desk within two months.”

The idea of the committee, points out Al-Borai, is an old one.

“It was first envisaged in 1988 but never began work. The recent presidential decree essentially resuscitates the 1988 plans. The committee will continue working even after the election of a new parliament.”

Then, says Al-Borai, the SCLR will act as the arm of government that submits any new legislative proposals to the House of Representatives.

Following the announcement of the SCLR’s formation the Free Egyptians Party (FEP) issued a statement demanding a comprehensive overhaul of the statute book to end legislative chaos and the suspicion of unconstitutionality hangs over many existing laws.

“Egypt’s international reputation should be uppermost in the committee’s mind,” the FEP statement read.

The party cited the controversial Demonstration Law, issued by former president Adli Mansour last November and widely criticised for failing to uphold the right to peaceful protest, as in urgent need of revision. It has called on President Abdel-Fattah Al-Sisi to instruct the committee to amend the Demonstration Law so that it complies with constitutional guarantees.

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