Egyptian government deliberately obstructs litigation against repealed Assembly Law at today’s hearing in front of Commissioners Panel

In Egypt /Road Map Program, Statements and Position Papers by CIHRS

On Thursday morning December 7, the Commissioners Panel of the Administrative Court’s First Circuit convened in the first hearing of the petition filed by the Cairo Institute for Human Rights Studies (CIHRS) and 31 Egyptian public figures seeking the annulment of  Law 10/1914 on assembly and the publication of the 1928 law repealing it in the Official Gazette. The Administrative Court had referred the petition to the Commissioners Panel to solicit its legal opinion on the evidence provided in CIHRS’ January 2017 report “Toward the Emancipation of Egypt.” A new panel of commissioners convened today after the mandate of the first panel had expired. The hearing ended with a decision to postpone the case to prepare the commissioner’s report on it, with a possibility for the parties to submit any additional notes within two weeks.

At today’s hearing, the Egyptian government continued to obstruct the proceedings, disregarding the lives of tens of thousands of Egyptians imprisoned under this repealed law, originally passed over a century ago by the British colonial authorities.

Before the government’s lawyers moved for new arguments before the new Commissioners Panel, the first panel had ostensibly already begun preparing its report, following the conclusion of arguments over two previous sessions (August and September 2017). During that time, the State Cases Authority, which is functioning as the government’s defense, offered no argument or documentation to refute claims in the CIHRS petition or the documentation included in “Toward the Emancipation of Egypt.” That report showed that the Assembly Law was repealed by the Egyptian Parliament in 1928 and that the king did not veto the repeal law; it was thus automatically approved and ratified under the 1923 Constitution in force at the time.

The State Cases Authority moved to reopen arguments before the new Commissioners Panel, arguing that there was additional documentation and defense arguments it had been unable to submit to the Administrative Court and the first panel due to “time constraints.” These documents proved to be nothing more than a copy of the 1923 Constitution, a copy of the 1928 Royal Edict dissolving the Parliament, and a copy of the 1929 edict amending the 1923 Protest Law, which references the repealed Assembly Law. To avoid wasting additional time—with the lives of tens of thousands of people imprisoned under the repealed Assembly Law hanging in the balance—CIHRS relinquished its legal right to seek a continuance to examine the newly submitted documents, all of which are available and were referenced in its report.  It filed a brief today responding in detail to the government documentation, whose collection and submission in no way required a full year.

In its brief, CIHRS noted that under the plain meaning of Article 35 of the 1923 Constitution, submitted by the Egyptian government, the fact that the king did not veto the repeal of the Assembly Law necessarily entailed the ratification of the repeal law.  The king was thus obligated under the Constitution to publish the repeal law in the Official Gazette, which he failed to do. The petitioners are therefore asking the court to require the current Egyptian government to take this action. The remainder of the documents submitted by the government, the brief argued, are irrelevant.

The amendment of the Protest Law was adopted after the date of the Assembly Law’s repeal and any reference to the Assembly Law in that amendment does not indicate that the law was not repealed. As for the dissolution of Parliament two months after the repeal in question, this fact was noted by CIHRS in its report, but in no way does the dissolution affect the acts or decisions made prior to the royal dissolution order. CIHRS affirms it will continue its campaign to see the repeal of the Assembly Law enacted. If the Egyptian government possessed documentation to refute the findings of the CIHRS report, it would have simply submitted this documentation a year ago instead of disingenuously scheming to obstruct the proceedings indefinitely.

The coming January will mark one year since CIHRS issued its report exposing the Assembly Law’s unanimous repeal by the Egyptian Parliament 90 years earlier.  Yet the Egyptian government persists in willfully evading its constitutional obligation to rectify this grave error, making it solely responsible for the harm caused by this invalid law’s prolonged enforcement; a law described as so repressive and authoritarian by the British colonial authorities themselves that they refused to justify its continued enforcement. In contrast, the Egyptian government – perhaps because it stands on the threshold of presidential elections –clings to this obsolete colonial law dating over a century ago.

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