Judges’ Club Vows To Continue Reformist Agenda: Mekki
Judges’ Club Vows To Continue Reformist Agenda: Mekki
Sunday, December 17,2006 00:00
By AL-Masri Al Youm

Daily Al Masry Al Youm had an all inclusive interview with judge Ahmed Mekki, the deputy chief justice of the Court of Cassation and a prominent figure in the Judges Club, in which the deputy chief justice dealt with heated judicial and political files, topped by inheritance of power in Egypt, independence of the Judicial authority and the separation between state powers. Mekki sees that the independence of the judiciary authority cannot materialize except in a democratic atmosphere that secures a full judicial supervision of Parliamentary and Municipal elections. The interview ran as follows:


Q: How do you see the outlook for the judges-government crisis?


A: We are keen to steer clear of clash with the government and to keep channels open with it. However, the Judges Club’s stance are that unchangeable and we will continue to call for our legal rights topped by the independence of judiciary, reforming justice and attaining full supervision on the general election.


Q: How do you read the negative attitude of the Minister of Justice, Mamdouh Maree, towards your club?


 A: We declared our position towards 2005 presidential election which was under supervision of Mamdouh Maree, as he was then chief justice of the Higher Constitutional Court, and the parliamentary elections under supervision of former Justice Minister, Mahmoud Abullail. Our position is that unchangeable since we understand that the Minister of Justice, regardless of his name, acts as a liaison between judges and the executive authority.


Q: But Maraee ignores the Club’s Board of Directors and you say that he has withheld financial support for you?


 A: The Club will continue to demand the judges’ rights including their financial support. While I reiterate that we don’t seek any clash with the minister, being an official who represents the executive authority, this does not collide with our agenda, which aims to maintain the judges prestigious position in society.


Q: Some of Judges’ Club members say that financial restraint imposed by the government against the Club is aimed to curb its role after its recent stances?


A: Definitely, but the Club exercises its role as a professional establishment entrusted with defending the independence of judiciary and judges’ interests. It also acts as an incubator to junior judges, catering for all their financial and moral needs; this explains why the Club should have its own financial resources. As for the financial restraint imposed on the Club, I think that these measures are not the brainchild of the minister inasmuch as a green light from a higher power.


Q: Positions adopted by the Club are construed by some as attempts to politicize it, given that judges are legally prohibited from being engaged in politics?


A: The Judges are Egyptian citizens, which makes incumbent on them to look into their nation’s interests, but the judges are only prohibited to join specific political parties or groups. Even President Mubarak himself called on judges in a recent meeting to focus their attention on their nation’s woes and the citizens’ grievances.


Q: You have long claimed independence of the judiciary, do you think that this only could bring about the hoped for reform and make democracy prevail?


A: The independence of the judiciary will materialize only as a fruit of democracy and not vice versa, as people mistakenly believe.  The independence of judiciary is not necessarily the first step towards democratization, but it must be preceded by fair and free elections, freedom of forming parties and owning newspapers and other media.                                                       


Q: The political forces always use the notion that the judges have the power to save the country from despots?


A: The political powers have portrayed the judges as rebels. I think that this notion is a stupid slogan, and those who believe the judges can change the regime are wrong. But this slogan may arise as a result of the people’s despair and lack of political experience. Our problem here in Egypt is that we are facing a regime which does not respond to people’s demands and political groups which lack organization and do nothing but unleashing fiery, revolutionary speeches while shouldering others with the burdens of reform and change.


Q: If you are not a revolutionary power, don’t you think that your claims bear revolutionary or even coup-like messages?


   A: We demanded, earlier in 1986, at the Justice Conference, the same claims which we are demanding now, mainly public participation, fair and free elections, freedom to form parties and owning newspapers, accountability, and even a peaceful rotation of power. We said so out of the belief that the regime could change but we were mistaken, so we settled for judiciary rights and started negotiations with the Justice Ministry as early as 1990 with a strategy to eventually achieve the full independence of the judiciary authority and a full supervision over the general elections.


Q: Do you expect that the government could topple the judiciary authority and repeat what happened at Nasser’s era?


 A: When the government’s popular support declines, it could resort to judiciary to rein in the angry political opposition, as was the case in 1968 when the students demonstrations prompted the government to embark on what is known as the Judges massacre ( a figure speech notion which the media and judiciary circles then used after reformist judges were unseated or suspended from their judiciary work). But I think that Mubarak with not recur Nasser’s mistake in 1969, nor will the incumbent minister accept to act the role of the then minister of justice. So, if the government seeks genuine reform, it should make reconciliation with the judiciary especially that judges enjoy popular trust among the masses.


 Q: In your recent battle with the regime, what gains and losses have you got?


 A: Although we didn’t achieve all our demands, we gained key points. As for the losses, the most prominent of which is our failure to persuade the government to repeal the law which places judiciary inspection under the Minister’s direct control; we also failed to have representatives in the Higher Judiciary Council. In general, what we have achieved is far less than our ambitions, since what we seek is a full independence of the judiciary authority.


Q: Now that security bodies are omnipresent in almost every government apparatus even in the judiciary establishment, do you see this a serious threat?


 A: security is vital for the society’s stability and its law and order. However, security cannot materialize except through justice. We see- before us- two examples, Israel and the US, which are seeking to establish security but without justice. Security prevails only when the regime responds to its people’s wishes and aspirations rather than collide with them. It is a serious threat if the decisions are taken more on security rather than on political considerations.