We all know the famous saying about Churchill when he was told the war had damaged and destroyed everything in the country. He asked about the judiciary, and when he was told that it was the only thing that had survived, he immediately said, “Then Great Britain is well.” This moving quote carries great import and significance and can be interpreted to mean that a country’s judiciary is its foundation and protective fortress, and vice versa. I say this after I started to feel worried and suspicious lately of the Egyptian judiciary after a series of rulings that were unusual and far from true law.
The judiciary has been exploited and its sanctity violated. It has been used for political purposes, the latest of which was the ruling by the Administrative Court which cancelled the Presidential decree calling for legislative elections, despite the fact that it is considered a sovereign decision. It also ruled that Egypt’s electoral law be returned to the Constitutional Court, even though this is in violation of the constitution.
Many constitutional experts have said that the court overreached its authority and interfered in the work of the executive branch, which has damaged the principle of separating the branches of law as dictated by the constitution. The ruling is fraudulent and flawed, and has overstepped the norms of administrative rulings. Moreover, the ruling is incorrect due to the fact that it interfered with the higher constitutional powers, and violated the established rule stating that the rulings of higher courts can neither be challenged nor appealed. There are numerous mistakes in the ruling, as noted by law professors, but what is surprising is that the President refused to challenge it on the grounds of respecting the law and supporting the rule of law. As if challenging rulings guaranteed by law to preserve the validity and justice of the judgement detracts from the status of the state, rather than being a solidification of a corrupt ruling that will remain a disgrace to the judiciary. This ruling follows its previous ruling to dissolve parliament, as well as the constitutional ruling to dissolve the People’s Assembly.
The judiciary is in a difficult position, and if it doesn’t untangle itself from the political clutches, it will lead the country into oblivion. I say this because I care about Egypt’s esteemed judiciary. I was one of those who defended its independence, and wrote a number of articles supporting the independent trend after its famous crisis with the former regime. I have found that I must support and take a stand against what is happening within the Egyptian judiciary out of patriotism and concern for my country. Presently, cases being deliberated in the Egyptian courts are being tainted by being displayed on television and violated by reporters, politicians and even judges. Everyone discusses these cases and articulates their personal judgements about them on air without even having studied them. The television stations have become courtrooms in which deliberations and rulings occur, and judges have become TV stars, floating from one televisions station to another.
Here is where the danger stems from. When the judge’s eye is focused on the camera, he misses the whole picture, thus allowing the truth to be lost, even though we have learned that the judiciary is where the truth lies. However, where is the truth? Is it on the television stations that deceive people and distort the facts? These are as far as can be from the truth; just like the judges, in the good old days, were hidden away from the public eye. I am referring to a time before they were corrupted by former regimes that pushed them into politics and commissioned for their own benefit. We used to hear that judges were prohibited from arguing with anyone, and if they did, they were immediately reproved. However, now, they are arguing in front of millions and have granted themselves imagined leadership.
All these practices have negatively impacted on the judiciary that we all want to be independent and far removed from the dangerous game of politics and the media. Therefore, I call on the Head of the Supreme Judicial Council to forbid judges from appearing on television stations and discussing cases presented to the courts in an attempt to preserve the status of the judiciary and judges. After the Administrative Court’s latest ruling, a venerable senior judge, the former Chief Justice of the Administrative Court, expressed his fear of the judiciary slipping into the sea of politics. He also said that cases pertaining to the work of parliament do not seem to work towards the separation of authorities, and that in such cases, the judge is blindfolded, as the French say. However, it seems that the judge has his eyes wide open, staring at the cameras, at a time when things have changed, standards are reversed, and unfortunately, the norms have altered.
When politics becomes a part of issues and matters it doesn’t belong in, such as the police, army and judiciary, it corrupts and ruins them. The police are the best and clearest example of this. We would like to prevent the judiciary from falling into the same quagmire; so as to preserve the most important pillar of this country and for the sake of its integrity. As such, we urge officials from both sides – the ruling authorities and the judges – to put an end to this, and prevent the river of law from merging with the sea of politics. They must create a clear distinction between them, separating them for the sake of the country and its people.
*The author is an Egyptian writer and a member of the National Council for Human Rights.
The views expressed in this article belong to the author and do not necessarily reflect the editorial policy of Middle East Monitor.