International Commission of Jurists
Egypt: authorities must end politicization of the judiciary and ensure its independence and accountability
October 12, 2016
The Egyptian authorities must end executive interference in judicial affairs and act to ensure that the judiciary is independent and that it serves to safeguard human rights and uphold the rule of law, the ICJ said today.
The statement came as the ICJ released its new report Egypt’s Judiciary: a Tool of Repression. Lack of Effective Guarantees of Independence and Impartiality.
The report documents the many ways in which the judiciary has been used as a tool to silence those suspected of opposing the Military and Executive.
This include prosecutors and judges initiating and continuing prosecutions on unfounded charges; adopting a presumption in favour of pre-trial detention; applying laws in violation of human rights standards and refusing to permit constitutional challenges to those laws; and failing to respect fundamental fair trial rights.
Convictions in Egypt are regularly based on poorly reasoned judgments and without individual findings of guilt.
“Egypt’s military and executive have subordinated the judiciary to their political will, making it a docile tool in their on-going, sustained crackdown on human rights in Egypt,” said Said Benarbia, ICJ MENA Director.
“In doing so, judges and prosecutors have abdicated their primary responsibility in upholding the rule of law. Rather than acting as a check on the arbitrary exercise of power, judges themselves have become complicit in violating the very rights they are mandated to protect,” he added.
Thousands of political opponents, human rights defenders, pro-democracy campaigners, journalists and individuals exercising their right to freedom of expression and assembly have been subjected to politicized prosecutions and convicted following unfair trials.
The report also documents how the military and the executive’s crackdown has extended to lawyers and judges suspected of opposing the authorities, the very individuals who are supposed to be the last line of defence of rights and freedoms.
The ICJ has found that the structural and systemic politicization of the Egyptian judiciary has been facilitated, in part, by the failure of the legal framework in force to provide for the necessary guarantees for judicial independence and accountability.
The report analyses how the composition, mandate and actions of the High Judicial Council (HJC), have undermined its ability to ensure respect of judicial independence.
The institutional and functional subordination of the Office of the Public Prosecutor to the Executive has meant politicized prosecutions against perceived opposition figures, and a failure to investigate and prosecute alleged human rights violations by police and military personnel.
The report also document how the wide jurisdiction of military and exceptional courts as well as the limited access to the Supreme Constitutional Court (SCC) have contributed to further undermining judicial independence.
The report contains 136 recommendations to the Egyptian authorities aimed at guaranteeing, in law and practice, the independence and accountability of the judiciary in Egypt.
*Photo courtesy of AFP