CAIRO: Citizens who wish to change their religious affiliation in official documents must file a memorandum outlining their motives within 30 days, the Supreme Constitutional Court decided following a hearing on Monday.
The memo will be examined by court judges who will give the final decision on such cases.
The court is currently preparing a report about case number 30 for the year 1992 relating to an article in the constitution that allows citizens to change their religious affiliation in official registered documents.
The Administrative Judicial Court, headed by Chancellor Mohamed El-Husseini decided on March 4 to halt any cases brought forth by citizens who want to confirm their conversion back to Christianity after they had converted to Islam.
The admin court reassigned the issue to the Supreme Constitutional Court to decide whether or not Article 47 of the civil affairs law number 143 for the year 1994 is constitutional.
A report prepared by the Egyptian Initiative for Personal Rights (EIPR) in coordination with Human Rights Watch published last November and titled “Banned Identities: The State’s Violation Of Freedom of Belief exposed the consequences of the “heavy-handed policies of the government.
Such policies, the report said, impede re-converts to Christianity from registering Christianity as their religion in official documents, forcing them to abide by Muslims personal status laws.
After a long legal battle, citizens involved eventually obtained a final ruling from the Supreme Administrative Court last February allowing 12 re-converts to issue new IDs stating their Christian faith.
However, the Administrative Judicial Court appealed the Supreme Administrative Court’s decision, transferring the case to the Supreme Constitutional Court to ensure that the ruling does not contradict the constitution.
The final constitutional court ruling will apply to all state courts and authorities.
Chairman of EIPR Hossam Bahgat says that it is too early to tell where this case will be heading. “Hearings on the case have not begun yet, he said.”Public opinion will have a major influence on the outcome of the case,
Bahgat said. “It is the only chance to influence the advisory opinions to the Supreme Constitutional Court.
He described the decision of the Administrative Judicial Court as “unfortunate.
“The decision was going to end the suffering of citizens but, apparently, the judge wasn’t happy with it, said Bahgat.