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We long to have our judges back

January 30, 2014 at 1:27 am

Many have warned that politics and the law don’t mix, and that judges shouldn’t seek the limelight in the media. The judiciary should rise above such foolishness and keep out of the political swamp.

Sadly, though, it seems as if some Egyptian judges have succumbed to temptation and the love of politics has impaired their judgement. The result is that the law is now subjective and prone to interpretation based on political affiliations. This is a disaster for any country founded on the pillars of a just society and the law.

When the first Constituent Assembly in Egypt was dissolved a senior judge and former Chief Justice of the Administrative Court expressed his fears about the judiciary slipping into politics. He said that he had noticed that legal cases relevant to the Parliament are no longer dealt with by a separation of the judiciary and the legislature. The standards have changed.

His warnings were ignored and politicised rulings, after the dissolution of the Constituent Assembly, elected by 30 million Egyptians, ensured that the President’s call for new elections would not be implemented. The latest controversial ruling saw a very public tussle between the state and judiciary over the appointment of the State Prosecutor.

This situation exposes Egypt to real danger, with a judiciary linked to icons of the Mubarak regime challenging the elected president on political rather than legal issues. A former senior constitutional adviser, for example, is participating in conferences which call for the president’s ousting. This is the sort of thing that all sane people must have hoped our judges would not get involved with.

It is clear that the current situation in Egypt is very complex but it is not helped by supporters of the former regime showing their true colours post-revolution, not out of any love for the country but because of their hatred of the elected government and, especially, the Muslim Brotherhood. One of the leaders of this counter-revolutionary clique has even said, “Let Egypt burn for the sake of overthrowing the Muslim Brotherhood!” This is shameful and makes a mockery of democracy.

This group believes that some of the judges should be used to sabotage the revolution as part of the counter-revolution. Thus we see a cornerstone of our country, the judiciary, actually hindering Egypt’s progress. Conversely, others struggling to keep the country afloat to allow its fledgling democracy to flourish look to the judiciary to do their job and act independently of, but alongside, the government; it shouldn’t and doesn’t matter to them that the Brotherhood is in control if that was the democratic wish of the people.

When politics interferes in matters such as the police, army or judiciary, it destroys their integrity. We have the example of Egypt’s police in front of us as a warning. I am afraid that the judiciary will go down the same route and be used to block democratic decisions and decision-making. It is one of the pillars of the state and should act accordingly, independent of the legislature but using its statutes fairly, justly and apolitically. That is the very least we should expect of our judges; we long to have them back.

The views expressed in this article belong to the author and do not necessarily reflect the editorial policy of Middle East Monitor.