The International Bar Association’s Human Rights Institute (IBAHRI) has strongly condemned Egypt’s judiciary for abuses “during three successive regimes” dating back to the reign of the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces after the ouster of deposed president Hosni Mubarak.
The scathing 85 page report released on Monday comes following an extensive investigation by the IBAHRI in Cairo in June 2013 along with subsequent fact-finding missions from August to November.
“Although judicial independence is protected as a principle at the highest level, in practice and in process, the executive (particularly through the Ministry of Justice) is given wide powers over judges, providing scope for abuse,” read the statement.
The IBAHRI criticised the Egyptian judiciary for pursuing cases against people and groups critical of the government.
“During the three successive regimes which followed Hosni Mubarak’s fall in 2011, the prosecution of opposition forces has been enthusiastically pursued,” said Baroness Helena Kennedy, co-chair of the IBAHRI. “These prosecutorial trends must be addressed in order to ensure the fair and effective administration of justice in Egypt.”
The report lauded the new constitution, adopted by referendum last month, as a vast improvement over the 2012 constitution in terms of just trials and human rights.
“The 2014 Constitution is a significant improvement on its 2012 predecessor and represents a fresh start for Egypt. The IBAHRI strongly encourages the new Egyptian government to entrench standards protecting the independence of the judiciary and the prosecution, in order to protect the rule of law today and for generations to come,” said Kennedy.
The IBAHRI recommend four specific measures to improve Egypt’s judiciary: end the involvement of the Ministry of Justice in assigning judges to specific cases; take measures to remove influence of the ministry over judicial work; use international assistance to adopt bylaws governing prosecutorial discretion to initiate cases; and institute a transitional justice process with international assistance.
“The importance of an independent judicial system in order to protect the right to a fair trial cannot be stressed enough. In this regard, the occasion for Egypt to fortify this fundamental principle of a democratic society is now. The IBAHRI is hopeful that it will,” said IBAHRI co-chair Sternford Moyo.
The IBAHRI report comes on the heels of several highly publicised trials in Egypt. Former presidents Mubarak and Mohamed Morsi are both on trial for charges relating to their time in office, and the prosecutor recently announced criminal charges of terrorism and spreading false news against 20 journalists who they claim work for Qatari news network Al Jazeera.
Founded in 1947, the International Bar Association is the leading professional organisation of attorneys, law firms, associations and law societies.