The judges" movement in Egypt is considered one of the most prominent political challenges that faced the Egyptian National movement during last year and helped its activation. In addition, it is that the most prominent incident in the history of the modern national movement.
After the parliamentary elections in November of 2005, a grave development occurred in the relationship between the Egyptian government and judges, presented in this case by the Judges" Club, to the extent that we can call it paying back, which appeared in many phases like (parliamentary elections, judges" club elections and investigating four renowned judges).
It is very important to tackle this controversial issue of the relationship between the Egyptian government and the judges. The relationship was characterized by consistency since judges" club was formed on 1939 as a private association according to Egyptian national association code; the relationship never witnessed any form of confrontations except the incident of dismissing more than 200 judges, who have different political inclinations on 1969 in Gamal Abd Al-Naser"s era.
Phases of Egyptian jurisdiction history
Egyptian modern jurisdiction started in Egypt by Muhammad Ali"s project to build the modern civilized state. Muhammad Ali established diverse courts (judicial assemblies) beside the legal courts, he also established two commercial judicial assemblies in the main commercial centers, Cairo and Alexandria. These assemblies formed the beginning of the Egyptian modern judiciary, then the khedive Isma`il came to extend the judicial system to form hierarchal assemblies to administrative structures in governorates and districts. These assemblies were specializes in only the simple cases relying on the rulings set by central government.
The jurisdiction system stayed like this until the beginning of the twentieth century, which witnessed the European presence in Egypt, consequently the European judicial system started to replace the Ottoman courts that were previously established. As the growing of foreign presence in the economy the so-called Mixed Court system was established to adjudge in the foreigners" cases on 1876. In spite of rationing these courts, the European presence was very clear not only in the formation of those courts but also in the process of adjudging between the government, as an executive power, and judicial system. The Egyptian government agreed on self-conformity to the rulings issued against it as it agreed on the system of general prosecution that we still work with until now.
Judges and era of Nasir
July officers coming to power in Egypt is considered a new phase in the relationship between executive authority and Egyptian judges, ruling in Nasir"s era was inclusive. The conflict between the way the system worked and the judges who cling to their independence came late some how.
The new government spent its first year making transformations in the basics of the law to comply with its new inclination. In for the system to interfere in all the administrative matters, it also spread the state of emergency to abuse its opponents and maintain the baby born revolution so it seemed like a non- verbal agreement between both the new system and the jurisdiction system.
Nasir insisted, at the beginning, to keep the jurisdiction independence and not to drag the judges into political matters and into the fictitious political trails of government oppositions. This was the desire of the judges also, then Nasir government established military exceptional courts, these courts had a political role not judicial one, which is adjudging system opponents.
In turn, a stream predominated over the judges, that their duty in this period is to apply law as it is, the way the government prescribe it. But this did not stay long, in the mid of the sixties many Egyptian lawmakers demanded the review of Egyptian laws to escort the political changes, they refused the idea of separating authorities and jurisdiction authority independence because it belongs to liberal legitimacy and should be replaced by Socialist legitimacy, they wanted also to embody judges in the Arab Socialist Union so the Egyptian judges would be linked to the pubic.
During general meeting of the Judge"s club held in March 1968, a statement was issued refused to be combined in any political system and called for halting the exceptional courts, respect the constitution and independency of Law. This statement divided people into two sections one party was sympathizing with the idea of one ordering.
Nathan Brown, one of those who yielded to the Egyptian jurisdiction authority, says, some of them had already joined the leading ordering but the majority of judges clanged to their statement, which resulted in confrontations between judges and the system especially after the statement group won judges" club elections in 1969. the government"s reply was to dismiss more than 200 judge which was known as (judges" massacre).
Sadat and Mubarak activating jurisdiction to eliminate political role
The system in this period intended to rehabilitate jurisdiction authority and put the judges in a higher rank in the Egyptian community, to encourage people to resort to jurisdiction system not the political orderings. The government had then to make some concessions for the benefit of the judges to keep "judges reverence". Sadat apologized for judges" massacre and system of both Sadat and Mubarak made judges dream of liberal legitimacy by reforming the Supreme Judicial Council, regaining the right of self-electing of judges" club administrative authority, reconsidering administrative jurisdiction, establishing Supreme Constitutional Court and setting the rules for non-dismissing to General Prosecution members".
Nevertheless, executive authority kept the right of appointing General Attorney and prescribed that members of jurisdiction inquisition should be represented to minister of Justice to gain hold on matters.
On the other hand, government raised the wages and allowances given to judges to the extent that it seemed that they are the favored category to the state.
Union and political demands:
The conflict between Mubarak and judges in the last year revolve around the bill of jurisdiction authority amendment, which would grant more independence to judges. Conflict started when judges" club general meeting held in November 22, 1990 issued a bill to amend the law of authority independence, the meeting laid basic principles that would be considered in the law, and it formed a committee to form that law. The judges" club general meeting held in 18th January 1991 approved the suggested bill but the president rejected the bill in that time, the bill stayed like that for more than 13 years until it was updated and a complete version of the bill was issued on 18th December 2004.
The bill guarantee in its updated version many updated rulings that judges think would help their independence:
- Jurisdiction authority independence in all financial matters and transforming judicial budget to Supreme Judiciary Council.
- Support Supreme Judiciary Council on the formation side where those who occupy high positions in jurisdiction system in addition to two members of Cassation Court and two others from Cairo Appeal Court because it is considered as "biggest appeal court and the landing place of it judges", as the judges say. Members are to be selected from the two previously mentioned courts by the election of its general meeting where as members of Supreme Judicial Council are appointed by a presidential decree until now which guarantee the full control of executive authority over it for it is responsible for forming it and shifting some of its members. As for technical support of the council, the bill asserts that it is the duty of administration of judicial inquisition to be joined to the council in order to help in appointing judges, promote or transfer them or in any other professional matter.
- Cancellation of assignment of jobs other than jobs of jurisdiction authority and limiting periods of these assignments and seconding to only four years in order not to affect the technical level of the judge when the period prolong.
- Giving Court of Cassation"s general meeting the right to select its elected members who work in it after their appointing was made by Ministry of Justice by approval of Supreme Judiciary Council; it has the right to elect its chief and deputy of the chief.
- Adjudging in judicial matters through two phases so the rulings would be carefully reviewed because its great effect upon judge"s career, law gave the right to the judge to turn to another judge from Cassation Court or a specialized attorney to defend him.
- Setting proper pension that should not decrease from their wages that they were paid.
- Turning judges" club from a private association supervised by Ministry of Social Affairs into an occupational association especially for judges and supervised by its assembly.
It is perceived that full supervision over the elections was not one of the judges" demands on their program of judicial independence even on 2000, in July 8, 2000 The Supreme Constitutional Court (Or SCC) issued the constitutional impugnation No: 11/ 13 that says that elections should be under judicial supervision as an application to the article No: 88 of the Egyptian constitution. Therefore, parliamentary elections on the year 2000 and was divided into three rounds to enable the judges supervise the elections.
National Democratic Party (NDP) insisted on running unfair elections especially after the relative fail that NDP candidates" faced during the first round, so NDP candidates used police men to prevent voters of the opposition candidates and denied access to polling stations, in many areas judges supervised only main committees for lack of judges. Supervising elections was limited to polling only without interfering with procedures of elections or reacting to any kind of violations occur outside the polling stations that would affect elections.
For these reasons the results of peoples" assembly last elections were challenged to be illegitimate because it was under judicial supervision in the same time there were several claims that the results are subjected to fraud, it also demanded the reelections in some districts like Ar-Raml district in Alexandria, therefore, judges felt that the results of these elections would lead to doubting their independence so they demanded full supervision upon the elections.
After the referendum of amending article No: 76 of constitution, a report issued by judges" club was considered a source of escalating the conflict between the executive authority because several violation occurred during the voting process and the result did not convey the true decision of the voters. When the report was issued that way, the judges club gained the trust of the Egyptian street, specially political intellectuals, in the same time it gave a solid proof that Mubarak was serious when he threatened that they would not supervise presidential elections.
The threat of the Egyptian system directed to the judges came in the same seriousness when judges club, three days before elections i.e. 30 August, the committee appointed to supervise the elections eliminated 1700 judge from those who would supervise on the final phases of the presidential elections. This was considered a clear message from Mubarak asserting his ability to eliminate every one would try to embarrass him through presidential elections.
General meeting of judges" club on 2nd September, concluded grudges" approval to participate in the presidential elections on the following conditions; The eliminated judges would supervise upon the elections and mentors of NGOs would have access to monitor the voting process, not considering officers of general prosecution and state cases administration as judges as well as clearing election tables, these are the conditions set by the judges. Although none of these conditions were fulfilled, judges supervised the presidential elections.
Although the leaders of judges" movement always assert that judges have no relationship with politics denying any political forces or non-governmental organizations to participate in their battle so it would not be a call for conflict with the ruling party but the door will still be opened for compromises lead to gaining their union demands.
There are some views indicates that judges did not move for a real political reformation but for their personal interests and maybe this view is justified but we should note that judges demand for independency would support Egyptian national forces in their battle for democratic change. Egypt did not have an independent jurisdiction authority in the last 50 years but it had independent judges, if those judges succeeded in rooting their stands for independent jurisdiction authority it would necessarily lead to limit the power given to the executive authority.
Supporting judges and enabling them to full supervision over all the coming elections" phases would help Egyptian opposition gain more seats in the parliament so they could proceed in the way of democratic change in Egypt.