Main Arab Legal Events: The Legal Agenda’s Perspective Weekly Note noo 15 (10-17 December 2012)

2012-12-20    |   

The Judiciary and the Supervision of the Constitutional Referendum in Egypt: Debate on the Boycott Rate and the Identity of the “Supervisors”
The State Security Court in Jordan Releases 60 Detainees among the Protestors on High Bails, upon “Royal Decrees”
First Lawsuit in Yemen to Challenge the Constitutionality of the Judiciary Law
Tunisia: A Draft Law to Discharge Attorneys Having Monopolized the Representation of State’s Institutions during the Ancient Regime.
Ongoing Crackdown on Freedom of Opinion in the Arab Gulf States
1- Egypt:
–          Judges continue to disagree over the supervision of the constitutional referendum. The Egyptian Judges’ Club declared that the rate of judges refusing to supervise the referendum has exceeded the 90%. The State Council’s Club added that it will agree on the supervision only if five conditions are met including: Guaranteeing the safety of judges taking part in the supervision, ensuring security at the High Referendum Supervision Commission headquarters and lifting the siege of the Supreme Constitutional Court. Amid such a division, The High Election Commission (HEC) decided to hold the referendum on two stages “due to a shortage in judges”.
–          The first stage of the referendum on the new constitution’s draft witnessed a large-scale division at the political, grassroots and judicial levels, even amounting to a severe confrontation between the Operation Room of the Justice Ministry and that of the Judges Club which stated having received about 420 complaints from citizens about perpetrated abuses, including: 120 complaints about the absence of judges within the commission, and about supervisors impersonating judges. On the other hand, “the Justice Ministry’s Operation Room” stated that the establishment by the Judges Club of an operation room of its own is aimed at undermining the constitution and causing confusion. In an attempt to address the relevant concerns, it further insisted on the fact that all the members supervising the referendum are judges from judicial instances.
–          Ongoing controversy over the military trials of civilians in Egypt, after the President of the Republic issued law no. 107/2012 granting military officers the prerogatives of “judicial police” during the referendum.  Within this framework, Amnesty International expressed fears over such dangerous precedent that might lead to the resurgence of military trials against civilians. On another note, the Egyptian Presidency declared that the aforementioned law will remain in force only for a few days until the results of the referendum are released, adding that the prosecuted civilians will not be tried before the military courts but rather brought to civilian courts.
–          The Al-Azbakeyah Court of Misdemeanor issued a one of a kind verdict on annulment of the public prosecution’s representation in the case filed before the court, due to the fact that its designation has been based on a null and void constitutional declaration.
2- Tunisia:
–          An unprecedented event throughout the history of the Tunisian prisons took place, as the Justice Ministry signed a memorandum of understanding with seven human rights associations, enabling them to visit prisons at any moment (provided they give a one-day notice), without any prior authorization or restrictions. The associations are even entitled to bring along a doctor to the prisons within the framework of their mission to control the enforcement and implementation of the anti-torture policy in prisons.
–          The Justice Ministry issued a draft law on discharging attorneys who monopolized the representation of the state’s institutions during the ancient regime. The Ministry set new rules of distribution banning similar monopolization in the future.
3- Yemen:
–          The first lawsuit that challenged the constitutionality of the Judiciary law before the Supreme Constitutional Court, was filed by five judges against the Supreme Judicial Council, the Prime Minister, the president of the National Reconciliation Government and the Justice Minister, since the aforementioned law goes against the constitution, especially in terms of the separation of powers, and paves the way for the executive power’s interference in the Judiciary, thus undermining the judges’ independence.
4- Jordan:
–          Amid ongoing international and local denunciation of civilian trials before the State Security Court, royal decrees were issued demanding the release of 116 people arrested for having participated last month in the protests against the government’s decision to raise prices of oil products. 60 detainees accused of “illegitimate assembly and inciting riots”, have been released on a 1000 Dinars bail (which is a huge amount). Amnesty International described the King’s decision as “a shy and very late step”.  
Beyond the Weekly Note:
– Bahrein:
–          Ongoing pressure and legal verdicts against rights activists: The Arab Network for Human Rights Information condemned the legal verdict issued by a Bahreini court sentencing the rights activist Zeinab Al-Khawaja to one month in prison, with a 100 Dinar bail for a stay of execution. A-Khawaja was accused of “having taken part in an unauthorized demonstration” on February 12th 2012, and of “having penetrated into the Pearl Square” considered as “banned region” by the authorities. The Network denounced the Bahreini Public Prosecution’s decision to keep the activist one week in prison pending investigation over charges of “inciting hatred against the regime”.
–          Within this same context, the Court of Appeal reduced the prison sentence handed to human rights activist Nabeel Rajab from three years to two, after having been accused of calling upon and attending “illegitimate protests”. In a special interview with the Al-Safir newspaper, Rajab expressed from prison shock and dismay at the sentence reflecting the twisted Bahreini Judiciary infiltrated by the executive power. He added that the Bahreini prisons are overflowing with prisoners of conscience and opponents who have taken part in the peaceful demonstrations.
–          Syria:
–          After the dissidence of judges who have then established the Free Syrian Judicial Council last September, the Council issued 400 arrest warrants against Bashar Al-Assad and 140 people accused of perpetrating collective genocides. It declared the establishment of numerous courts in the regions made free by the rebels, stating that work within the courts will kick off soon.
–          Kingdom of Saudi Arabia:
–          The human rights activist and former judge Suleiman Ibrahim Al-Rushudi was arrested for having given a lecture on “the Legitimacy of Demonstrations”. It is worth signaling that Al-Rushudi is an advocate of reform who had established along with other human rights activists the Political and Civil Rights Organization in Saudi Arabia. He had already been arrested many times for his political activities.
–          Iraq:
–          International rights organizations, including Amnesty International called upon the Iraqi authorities not to execute capital punishment against a Yemeni minor (named Saleh Moussa Mohammad Ahmad Al-Baydani) who committed crime at the age of 16. Later on, the Seyaj Organization for Childhood Protection hailed the efforts deployed to save the minor’s life, stating that the authorities responded to international and regional pressures.
Prepared by Christelle El-Feghaly

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Articles, Bahrain, Constitution and Elections, Egypt, Iraq, Jordan, Public Freedoms and Access to Information, Rule of Law, Accountability and Corruption, Saudi Arabia, Syria, Transitional Justice, Tunisia, Yemen

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