The “tortuous political transition” was thrown into further turmoil by the announcement that the Supreme Constitutional Court will examine the legality of a disenfranchisement law that could invalidate the presidential candidacy of Ahmed Shafiq, Hosni Mubarak’s last prime minister, just two days before the run-off.
The constitutional drafting process has been paralyzed since the Muslim Brotherhood tried to pack the panel with Islamists, provoking a walkout by secular and liberal politicians.
Democrats fear that the transitional process has been hijacked following the weekend’s high court judgments which were interpreted by many observers as a sign that Mubarak’s old guard is still in charge.
A leading liberal parliamentarian today called for Mubarak and his associates to be tried before a new transitional justice committee, comprising independent legal and media figures as well as unaffiliated politicians, with the prerogative to investigate the events of the 25 January revolution.
“Such a committee has been formed in several countries, this is not an exceptional case,” said Amr Hamzawy, a former political analyst. “In some countries it is described as transitional justice. It was used in Latin America and Morocco in order to deal with human rights violations in authoritarian systems without impinging on the state of law.”
The weekend’s rulings “sparked outrage at the perceived politicization of the judiciary,” according to Salem Mostafa Kamel and Mara Revkin:
Many members of the judiciary now seem to view themselves as the last pillar of stability in an increasingly turbulent political environment, as the Supreme Constitutional Court (SCC) reviews two high-stakes legal challenges that could upend the electoral process and dissolve Parliament itself.
Meanwhile, Parliament itself is under threat from a constitutional challenge to the electoral law, which lawyers say gave candidates running on party-lists an unfair advantage over their independent counterparts in the parliamentary elections. On May 6, the SCC announced that it would delay its final ruling for one month, meaning that a decision is due this week. If the electoral law is found to be unconstitutional, the SCAF or newly elected president would have the right to order the dissolution of Parliament and call for new elections.
Parliament, perhaps reacting to the legal challenge to its legitimacy, has gone on the offensive against the judiciary. On May 4, Parliament changed its agenda to discuss the trial of Mubarak and Interior Ministry officials. MPs launched scathing attacks on the judiciary, accusing judges of caving to pressure and interference from the executive branch.
The independence of the judiciary has been further called into question by a criminal investigation of Abdel Moez Ibrahim, a powerful judge who not only heads the Cairo Court of Appeals but also chaired the committee overseeing the Parliamentary elections and is currently a member of the Supreme Presidential Electoral Commission.
Ibrahim is viewed as a long-time pawn of the Mubarak regime who was responsible for assigning judges to the cases of prominent opposition activists and dissidents such as Ayman Nour and Saad Eddin Ibrahim. He now stands accused of interfering in the work of judges and lifting the travel ban on foreign defendants in the NGO trial, reportedly at the request of the SCAF. Although the probe has reportedly concluded, its outcome has remained shrouded in secrecy, prompting suspicions that the executive branch and judiciary are cooperating to suppress the findings of an investigation that would reflect poorly on both.
The judiciary is not the only body under pressure from the executive branch. Parliamentary Speaker Saad al-Katatny has also accused the interim government of pressuring Parliament to renew the emergency law, which expired last week. However, al-Katatny insists that Parliament not renew the law out of respect for the Egyptian people.
The level of anger at the judiciary indicates that Egypt still has a long way to go before rule of law, one of the central objectives of the revolution, is achieved.
Salem Mostafa Kamel is an Egyptian legal advisor to the Carter Center’s office in Cairo and previously worked for the global telecommunications firm, Alcatel-Lucent.
Mara Revkin is the editor of EgyptSource.
The above extract is taken from a longer essay on EgyptSource.
The Project for Middle East Democracy, a grantee of the National Endowment for Democracy, adds:
Date Set to Begin Consideration of Political Isolation Law
Deputy Chairman of the Supreme Constitutional Court Maher Sami announced that the court will meet on June 14 to consider the appeal launched by the Presidential Electoral Commission regarding the political isolation law that bars former members of the Mubarak regime from participating in the elections. One of the main demands of protestors and former candidates has been the application of the law which, if enacted, could bar Shafiq from participating in the second round and may void the first round entirely. The court will also look at an appeal assigned to it by the Supreme Administrative Court on the unconstitutionality of several provisions of the parliamentary law that deal with limiting the election of independent candidates. The law allowed candidates from political parties to win seats previously reserved for independents.
Sources “Supreme Constitutional Court Sets Date for Consideration of Appeals to Political Isolation”, Akhbar ElYom (Arabic) 6/6/2012. “Fate of Political Isolation and the Parliament will be Determined June 14″, Al Wafd (Arabic) 6/6/2012. “Supreme Constitutional Court will Consider Appeal on Political Isolation Law June 14″, El Shorouk (Arabic) 6/6/2012. “Court to assess Disenfranchisement Law on 14 June”, Ahram Online (English) 6/6/2012. “Court to consider controversial political rights law before presidential runoff”, Egypt Independent (English) 6/6/2012.
SCAF Gives Parties 48 Hours or It Will ‘Annex’ the Constitution
Egypt’s political parties met with the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces (SCAF) on Tuesday to discuss the country’s constituent assembly. SCAF threatened to issue a ‘constitutional annex’ or revive the 1971 constitution if parliament did not agree to the criteria for appointing representatives to the assembly within 48 hours. Party representatives and MPs who attended the meeting said that they had refused a proposal to amend Article 60 of the Constitutional Declaration, which deals with how representatives are elected to the assembly. If modified, the change would have allowed for representatives to be selected based on specific criteria rather than being appointed directly by MPs. Several party representatives told Egyptian media sources that there will be a meeting between key political groups, including the Muslim Brotherhood’s Freedom and Justice Party, who boycotted the meeting.
Sources “SCAF gives parties 48 hours to resolve constituent assembly crisis”, Ahram Online (English) 6/5/2012. “Political Forces Reject Amendment of Article 60, Crucial Meeting Tomorrow”, Ahram (Arabic) 6/6/2012.