Timeline of Morsi and the Judiciary: One Year in Power

Nouran El-Behairy
15 Min Read
Egyptian General Prosecutor Abdel Meguid Mahmud (C) addresses judges in his office at the high court in Cairo on October 13, 2012. An influential group of Egyptian judges backed state prosecutor Mahmud’s refusal to resign after President Morsi ordered his removal on October 11. (Photo credit should read AHMED MAHMUD/AFP/Getty Images)
Egyptian General Prosecutor Abdel Meguid Mahmud (C) addresses judges in his office at the high court in Cairo on October 13, 2012. An influential group of Egyptian judges backed state prosecutor Mahmud’s refusal to resign after President Morsi ordered his removal on October 11. (Photo credit should read AHMED MAHMUD/AFP/Getty Images)
Egyptian General Prosecutor Abdel Meguid Mahmud (C) addresses judges in his office at the high court in Cairo on October 13, 2012. An influential group of Egyptian judges backed state prosecutor Mahmud’s refusal to resign after President Morsi ordered his removal on October 11. (Photo credit should read AHMED MAHMUD/AFP/Getty Images)

30 June 2012: The Presidential Oath

As the fifth president of Egypt and its first civilian president, Mohamed Morsi took his oath of office in front of the general assembly of the Supreme Constitutional Court (SCC).

The presidential oath is usually taken in front of parliament, but a constitutional decree issued by the Supreme Council of Armed Forces (SCAF) dissolved the People’s Assembly(PA), the lower house of parliament, on 15 June, upon a SCC verdict; the decree stated Morsi would take his oath in front of the SCC.

Activists and members of revolutionary forces criticised Morsi’s appearance in front of the SCC and considered it a ratification of the controversial military decree.

8 July 2012: First confrontation

Morsi reversed SCAF’s decision and reinstated the dissolved People’s Assembly (PA).

The SCC released a statement on 9 July condemning the president’s decree and reaffirming the binding nature of its verdicts.

10 July 2012: SCC responds

The SCC revoked the president’s decision to reinstate the PA after the court reviewed the cases filed against it, in which plaintiffs said he violated a court ruling.

11 July 2012: Morsi backs down

Morsi abided by the SCC’s verdict to dissolve the House.

12 August 2012: Morsi assumes power

Morsi issued his own constitutional decree in which he canceled SCAF’s supplementary constitutional decree that was issued before he took office. SCAF’s declaration was considered restrictive to Morsi’s powers as president.

Morsi claimed legislative powers in addition to his executive ones, claiming the right to form a new Constituent Assembly in case of the dissolution of the current one.

The Administrative Judiciary Court meanwhile ruled to postpone the case to dissolve the Assembly until 24 September, giving it time to draft the new constitution.

11 October 2012: Morsi sacks Prosecutor General

Morsi dismissed Prosecutor General Abdel Meguid Mahmoud, a day after Cairo Criminal Court acquitted those accused of killing protesters on 2 February 2011 in the case commonly known as The Battle of the Camel. According to Egypt’s Judiciary Law, the president did not have the authority to remove him. Morsi appointed Mahmoud as Egypt’s envoy to the Vatican.

Mahmoud refused to leave office and judges and members of the general prosecution rejected Morsi’s decree.


11 November 2012: Judges revolt

The Judges’ Club released a statement saying that they would boycott monitoring the constitutional referendum, while also threatening to launch an open-ended strike if their suggested changes to the judiciary section in the constitution were not considered.

The judges demanded the club’s board and the Supreme Council of the Judiciary be allowed to draft the judiciary section to ensure judicial independence and avoid executive or legislative interference.


22 November 2012: New constitutional decree

President Morsi issued a constitutional decree, making his decisions immune from judicial oversight

He appointed a new prosecutor general and declared that the position would from then on be appointed by the president for a four year term. He gave himself the right to make any decision to “protect the revolution and save the nation to achieve national unity.”

Morsi safeguarded the Shura Council and the Constituent Assembly against dissolution by any court and extended the Assembly’s deadline to complete drafting the constitution by two months.

24 November 2012: Judges Club supporting Abdel Meguid

The Judges’ Club rejected the president’s decision, claiming it interfered in the independence of the judiciary and called for the suspension of work in all courts and administrative prosecutions. They stated that Mahmoud should be reinstated while Mahmoud vowed to challenge Morsi’s decision in court.

28 November 2012: An unprecedented strike

Egypt’s highest court, the Court of Cassation, held a general assembly in which members voted 270 to 19 to suspend work in response to Morsi’s constitutional decree.

The Supreme Judicial Council (SJC) met with President Morsi on 26 November. Following the meeting, presidential spokesperson Yasser Ali said there would be no changes to the decree.

The Court of Cassation was joined in the strike by Egypt’s eight appeals courts in Cairo, Alexandria, Tanta, Mansoura, Ismailia, Beni Suef, Assiut and Qena. The country’s 26 primary courts, the courts of limited jurisdiction and most prosecution offices, also went on strike.

1 December 2012: President calls for constitutional referendum

After formally receiving the final version of the draft constitution, Morsi announced the referendum would be held on 15 December. The Assembly started the final voting on 29 November and continued into the early hours of the next day; Chairman of the Assembly Hossam Al-Gheriany delivered the draft constitution to the president.

The Assembly voted despite the absence of 26 members who had withdrawn (all of whom liberals, church representatives and non-Islamists) by calling reserve members to maintain quorum.

The new constitution, precisely Article 176 of Section 4, reduced the number of SCC judges from 18 to 11, sacking veteran members including Tahani Al-Gebali.

2 December 2012: Pro-Morsi demonstrators surround SCC

About 5,000 supporters of the president besieged the SCC in Maadi, gathering around the court early on Sunday and preventing judges from entering. The court was scheduled to examine cases challenging the legitimacy of the Assembly and the Shura Council.

SCC judges announced in a statement read by its president Maher El-Beheiry that it would suspend all work until further notice. Vice President of the Court Judge Maher Samy described the siege as an unprecedented breach of the independence of the judiciary.

In a later statement, the court looked into the dissolution of the Shura Council and the Assembly on 15 January.

3 December: SJC to observe referendum

The SJC announced it would delegate judges and prosecutors to oversee the constitutional referendum. A day earlier, the Judges’ Club had announced it would boycott the referendum in protest against the constitutional declaration they considered “a breach of judicial independence”.

8 December 2012: Morsi repeals declaration

Morsi issued a declaration as an amendment to the one issued in November, stating that all actions taken since the November declaration remain valid.

It offered a road map in case the draft constitution was not passed in the 15 December referendum. The declaration, not subject to judicial review, stated that a new 100-member Assembly would be elected by popular vote and charged with drafting a new constitution.


11 December 2012: Judges boycotting the referendum

Judges announced boycotting the constitutional referendum and threatened an open-ended strike unless their demands for the draft were met. They declared their refusal of any meddling with the prosecutor general or public prosecution’s powers in the new constitution.

17 December 2012: Prosecutors surround Talaat Abdallah, he resigns

Members of the prosecution besieged the High Court building in protest aimed at pressuring the newly appointed Prosecutor General Talaat Abdallah to leave office. They said that the SJC bore the authority to choose the prosecutor general, not the president. Abdallah delivered his resignation to the SJC the same night, which the council postponed reviewing until the referendum was over. However, three days later Abdallah rescinded his resignation.

The same day, the SCC issued a statement accusing the presidency of lying, after Essam Al-Haddad; the assistant to the president on foreign relations described the SCC as an “anti-revolutionary force” and its dissolution of parliament as “dubious”, citing “leaks” and an SCC “conspiracy” against the presidency.

The presidency denied slandering the court and said comments were taken out of context.

15 January 2013: SCC postpones rulings

In response to the Shura Council’s new full legislative authority as a result of the new constitution, the SCC referred the Shura Council’s case to the Commissioners’ Authority for a detailed report and postponed the Assembly case to 3 February.


3 March 2013: SCC rejects the dissolution of the Constituent Assembly

The Supreme Constitutional Court rejected a case to dissolve the Assembly that was filed in August on the grounds that the Assembly finished drafting the constitution and it passed in a referendum, thus automatically dissolving it.


5 March 2013: Report released on attacks on the judiciary

The Arab Centre for the Independence of the Judiciary and the Legal Profession (ACIJLP) published its annual report entitled An Attack on Justice in Egypt. The report focused on confrontations between the judicial, executive and legislative authorities, as well as violations regarding the independence of the judiciary.

The report named 2012 the worst year for the judiciary in six decades.


6 March 2013: Administrative Court suspends parliamentary elections

The Administrative Judiciary Court ruled to suspend House of Representative elections, initially scheduled for 22 April. The court suspected the election law was unconstitutional and referred it to the SCC for review.

President Morsi called for elections in February, announcing their start in April and end in June, with the first session of the House of Representatives to follow on 6 July.

27 March 2013 Court reinstates Abdel Meguid Mahmoud

The Cairo Court of Appeals overturned the dismissal of former Prosecutor General Mahmoud. However, Hussein Yassin, head executive of public prosecutor office, announced that according to the new constitution, Talaat Abdallah would not leave office, with the latter filing an appeal against the verdict.

17 April 2013: Al-Wasat proposes judiciary amendments

Al-Wasat Party, a moderate Islamist party, held a press conference at the Shura Council where it announced it had drafted a new judiciary law. The amendments included lowering judges’ retirement age to 60 instead of 70, which would push almost 3,000 judges into retirement.

Two days later a number of Islamist parties and movements demonstrated outside the High Court building demanding the Shura Council’s approval of the new judiciary law.

24 April 2013: Judges’ Club general assembly

About 6,000 judges attended the general assembly in which they rejected amendments to Judiciary Law, demanded the reinstatement of Abdel Meguid Mahmoud as prosecutor general and an apology from the president for protests by his supporters against the judiciary.

28 April 2013: A glimpse of hope

The president met with judicial leaders and agreed to have them draft their own new judicial law that he will endorse and present to the Shura Council.

Morsi agreed to sponsor a Justice Conference to contribute to one or more judiciary bills which the president would endorse in front of the Shura Council.

15 May 2013: Judges Club boycotts Justice Conference

The Judges Club laid out preconditions for participating in the Justice Conference, which included presenting their draft to the House of Representatives, rather than the Shura Council, and the rejection of Talaat Abdallah’s participation.

The boycott was prompted by the Shura Council’s decision to present to its members the amendments to the Judiciary Law designating the 25 May session for discussion of these amendments.

20 May 2013: International Conference for Safeguarding the Independence of the Egyptian Judiciary

The Judges Club, in collaboration with the International Association of Judges (IAJ), hosted the day-long International Conference for Safeguarding the Independence of the Egyptian Judiciary, with the aim of discussing measures to safeguard the Egyptian judiciary against infringement by other state institutions.

Head of the Judges’ Club Ahmed Al-Zend was criticised for involving international bodies in Egyptian affairs.

On 28 May, Al-Zend announced an open-ended sit-in at the High Court building in protest of the Shura Council discussing amendments to the Judiciary Law.

2 June 2013: SCC rule on Shura finally out

The SCC ruled the Shura Council and Assembly were formed illegally due to the unconstitutionality of election laws. Nonetheless, the court upheld the council’s legitimacy until the next parliamentary elections.

8 June 2013: Justice Conference cancelled

Minister of Justice Ahmed Suleiman announced that the Justice Conference had been cancelled due to “unsuitable conditions”.

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