CAIRO: Sixty-one Egyptian judges have completed the required training courses that enable them to hand down well-informed rulings on environment-related issues and participate in specialized environment courts.
Last year 170 judges received the same training prior to the launch of the environmental courts in October 2007.
“Thanks to the training courses, lots of rulings relating to the protection of natural reserves, public parks and other natural surroundings have been issued by the trained judges with some figuring as precedents, said Ahmed El-Anwar, the legal assistant to the Minister of the State for Environmental Affairs.
The courts are designed to speed up the judicial process in environmental disputes and violations in addition to spreading awareness. Speaking to Daily News Egypt as the third training session for judges came to an end, El-Anwar pointed out that these courts are bound to play a more important role in the future.
“The courts, which started operating in October 2007, are spreading out over 28 primary courts countrywide, said El-Anwar. “They are the fruit of cooperation between the Ministry of Justice and the Ministry of State for Environmental Affairs.
According to El-Anwar, issuing a verdict in Egyptian courts usually takes a long time, but environment-related cases used to take even longer owing to the absence of qualified judges.
“This has changed. In addition to the factor of time, the courts are wielding a positive influence. A lot more is bound to be achieved as we continue to operate, he said.
Reports indicate that rulings in environment-related disputes make people more environment-conscious. Violations that used to be committed due to oversight or lack of knowledge about related laws have now been accentuated as red zones, reports claim.
Yet in case of disputes, defendants, some of whom are owners of sizeable industrial projects, would appear before court along with their own environmental consultants to back up their defense’s argument.
“This doesn’t happen, El-Anwar claims.
“Even in cases when it does happen, the environmental courts have – besides the qualified judges – their own environmental consultants that are appointed to assess the violation or the damage where it transpires and provide the court with relevant reports, he added.
Generally, he continued, modern investors are environment-conscious taking into consideration the potential environmental hazards.
“The problem, however, is with the old industrial organizations, he added.
These organizations, which are usually sustaining financial losses, are sources of most of the violations because they have problems introducing new technologies, El-Anwar explained.
“We understand their difficulties, he added. “Upon issuing a warning that the machines or equipment should be replaced, we extend help by mediating to offer them long term loans so that they would introduce the environment-friendly facilities.
“Those who don’t heed the warning are referred to court and eventually have no other choice but accept the loans, he added.