Minister of Justice Ahmed Mekki will transfer authority over the Judicial Inspection Directorate from the Ministry of Justice to the Supreme Council of the Judiciary (SCJ), effectively ending one of the main ways the executive branch controlled the judiciary.
In a letter Mekki sent to Chairman of the Cassation Court and the SCJ, Justice Minister Mohamed Momtaz Motwaly said he was working on a law that would transfer control over the Judicial Inspection Directorate to the courts.
He added that the Directorate is effectively under the judiciary’s control starting now, and that the law would only formalise it. Mekki said he achieved this by having the SCJ choose who it saw fit to head Judicial Inspection and that he would appoint that person Assistant Minister of Justice for Judicial Inspection.
The Judicial Inspection Directorate is the body concerned with monitoring the performance of judges in primary courts and supervises their transfers, hiring and appointments to certain positions.
It was often used by the executive branch in former President Hosni Mubarak’s regime to exert control over judges and the judiciary through hiring loyalists and firing or punishing independent judges while keeping the rest in check.
Mekki, a former judge and Deputy Chairman of the Cassation Court himself, was one of the stalwarts of the independent judiciary movement in the Mubarak era. He has often campaigned for the independence of the courts from the Ministry of Justice.
He is now using his position as Minister of Justice to grant the courts judicial independence. According to his letter, the SCJ has already recommended Deputy Chairman of the Cassation Court Zaghloul El-Belshey take over the Judicial Inspection Directorate.
Mekki has now appointed him Assistant Minister of Justice for Judicial Inspection on the recommendation of the SCJ until the new law stipulating the independence of Judicial Inspection through transferring control over it from the ministry to the SCJ is released.
El-Belshey was also a prominent member of the independent judiciary movement during the Mubarak era. Alongside Mekki, his brother Mahmoud Mekki who was appointed Vice President on Sunday, and former presidential candidate Hesham El-Bastawisi they organised protests calling for an independent judiciary and an end to electoral fraud in 2005.
El-Bastawisi and Mahmoud Mekki back then published a list of judges who were complicit with security forces in electoral fraud in the 2005 parliamentary elections. The Judicial Inspection Directorate at the time was used punish them and they were tried but subsequently acquitted.
The law Mekki is working on will be presented to the cabinet for approval before being sent to President Mohamed Morsy for final approval and promulgation.