The Arabist

The Arabist

By Issandr El Amrani and friends.

In Translation: Think it over, judges!

There have been several examples in the Egyptian press lately of extremely belated hand-wringing. Now Lamis Elhadidy -- a former media advisor to Hosni Mubarak, fierce supporter of President El Sisi and talk show who host who has featured many times in our Egypt in TV columns -- comes out and says it: Some of the recent judicial rulings are not very beneficial to the country. She asks judges, with all due respect, to "reflect" a little more. Given how much Elhadidy has acted as a mouthpiece for the post-June 30 regime, it's fair to assume that this is a message. We bring you this latest entry in our In Translation series as always courtesy of Industry Arabic, a great professional translation service. 

The Judges

Lamis Elhadidy, El Masry El Youm, June 30

I choose my words carefully before talking about the judiciary. It is an emotional topic, and any unconsidered approach may be understood incorrectly or expose one to accusations of insulting the judiciary, wanting to politicize the institution, or “lacking patriotism," alongside other prefabricated charges.

But honesty requires that we do not shy away from speaking the truth, nor fear blame. I hold great respect for the judiciary and its officials; I am certain of the lofty position that it has occupied throughout Egypt’s political history, and that it is one of the few institutions that stood steadfastly against attempts at encroachment from various political regimes. However, those within the judiciary themselves may need to pause in order to frankly and honestly analyze the results of recent rulings and their influence on the path of the nation as a whole.

An independent judiciary, whose independence we all defend, does not imply that the institution is separate from the nation, or that it operates on an island with no connection to what is going on around it, in terms of international repercussions, challenges, or ambushes. An independent judiciary means that the institution does not experience any form of pressure from other branches of the government, especially the executive branch, and that the judge rules from his stand justly and according to the law -- the law that was promulgated in order to administer justice, set the scales, and reform society, not handicap it.

With this in mind, the judiciary's wise and senior figures must pause and evaluate some of the most recent rulings and their influence on the nation’s path. Egypt is facing ambushes both domestically and internationally, and they must consider how—unfortunately—some of these rulings have obstructed our path, to the extent that these rulings have even been employed by enemies to fuel denunciation and intensify international hostility toward the June 30th Revolution and the new Egyptian regime. All of this comes in addition to the heavy financial losses that we have suffered.

The rulings to renationalize companies that were privatized decades ago and the resulting legal cases cost billions of dollars in international arbitration. The death sentence rulings [of hundreds of alleged Muslim Brotherhood members, tried en masse] were immediately appealed by the public prosecutor, but their impact remains ineradicable as they formed the largest concurrent batch of death sentence rulings in human history. And -- despite my absolute disapproval of Al-Jazeera’s approach and the poisonous lies that it broadcasted -- the case of the Al-Jazeera journalists is also one of the rulings that have created disastrous international consequences for Egypt. Every bit of progress that we make on the diplomatic and popular front takes place through great pains; every constitutional and electoral mandate proves that the path of June 30 is our goal. And then these rulings come along and drag us two steps backward. Then we begin the series of justifications and explanations, affirming that the judiciary is not politicized, that there are other stages of litigation, and that there is no intention to suppress opponents, silence them, or otherwise.

We have failed – and I mean that we have all failed -- to explain the grounds of these rulings or the reasons behind them sufficiently to convince the world of their logic. It appeared to the world as though we have a unique judicial system with no relation to the global system, which is no longer acceptable internationally. Egypt cannot live divorced from international law.

The results are not only catastrophic on a political level, in that they result in the judiciary being charged with politicization, silencing or oppressing the Muslim Brotherhood; on a material level as well this is not sustainable, as we have no means to pay back the billions incurred by arbitration. In any case, it is difficult, or rather impossible, to implement the rulings to renationalize companies that have been sold a number of times. If the official does not carry out the ruling — a ruling that cannot be executed — then he ends up in jail!! As a result, the government was forced to introduce a law to circumvent those rulings instead of litigating them, by prohibiting appeals of state contracts by third parties.

Now, we have to speak the truth. These rulings, despite their enormous impact, are few in number within the long history of Egypt’s judiciary. Its leaders were known across the Arab world as pillars of the law. They wrote the constitutions of Arab countries, neighboring nations such as Turkey, and others. The men of the Egyptian judiciary stood firmly in the way of attempts at tyranny and domination that spanned decades, most recently during the era of the Muslim Brotherhood. Thus it is not shameful or wrong for them to pause to reflect if they sense the danger that threatens the state as a result of these rulings. They are part of a community that wants to move forward and evolve, not decline.

On the other hand, we have to find solutions to the horde of issues and poor conditions under which judges operate. We must amend the laws and toughen punishments for anyone who submits a malicious complaint and wastes the time of the prosecution and judicial bodies. The guaranteed right to litigation must be paralleled by proper exercise of this right so as not to squander time that we do not have.

President Abdel Fattah El-Sisi pledged not to interfere in judicial affairs and he acknowledges this as an important principle at the beginning of his rule. However, this does not mean that those within the judiciary should not do some reflection. We want the judiciary to remain lofty and not be taken advantage of by the enemies lying in ambush for us on all sides.