Egypt: Judges must cease application of the repealed colonial-era Assembly Law
The first hearing challenging Law 10/1914 on assembly, repealed 89 years ago by the Egyptian Parliament, will be heard by the Administrative Court on Tuesday of next week, April 4th. The Cairo Institute for Human Rights Studies (CIHRS) has issued a legal defense guide to support its petition – signed by 23 prominent lawyers, political figures, and rights defenders – seeking a stay on the law’s enforcement and the publication of its 1928 repeal. The guide provides a tool for defense lawyers to substantially undercut the repealed law’s enforcement and secure the release of those unjustly imprisoned under it. It further outlines the law’s illegality and urges the judiciary to refrain from applying it against citizens whose only act was to exercise a fundamental democratic precept recognized throughout the world – the right to peacefully assemble.
The legal defense guide is part of CIHRS’ ongoing campaign to overturn Law 10/1914 on assembly, known as the Assembly Law. The guide focuses on two principal legal rationales for overturning the Assembly Law, which are detailed in the CIHRS report “Toward the Emancipation of Egypt.” The first rationale centers upon the law’s repeal 89 years ago following a unanimous vote by the Chamber of Deputies and Senate. Since the king did not exercise his right of veto, the repeal law was issued under the provisions of the 1923 Constitution in force at the time. The emphasis of the second rationale is upon the Assembly Law’s flawed issuance. The law was issued by an incompetent authority without legislative prerogative; in contravention of laws regulating the issuance of legislation at that time, particularly the Organic Law of 1913 and the edict of June 4, 1883.
The legal defense guide should be deployed by defense lawyers as well as judges seeking to uphold the rule of law based upon valid and binding legal principles. In cases pending adjudication, the judiciary has the right to determine if legislation meets formal requirements and if it does not, to refrain from applying this legislation – a practice known as refrainment. As the defense guide demonstrates, the Assembly Law flouts fundamental legal requisites; and therefore, it is the judge’s duty to refrain from applying the law in the upcoming case.
The legal defense guide is an indispensable resource for lawyers, judges, and all those within the Egyptian legal system who believe that the courts must exercise their power to impartially review legislation, protect the separation of powers, and uphold the rule of law. It is incumbent upon criminal judicial entities to defer judgment in such cases pending the petition’s adjudication and to release all defendants currently held on remand. With nearly a century passing since its repeal, the Egyptian judiciary can no longer defend this illegal, colonial-era law. It must cease its application immediately and release all those unjustly detained for peacefully assembling; a fundamental right that should no longer be deemed as a criminal offense in the modern post-colonial era.
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