City Bar Urges President Morsi of Egypt to Ensure Judicial Independence

New York City Bar Association President Carey R. Dunne has written to President Mohamed Morsi Isa El-Ayyat of the Arab Republic of Egypt, expressing the Association’s serious concerns regarding the independence of the judiciary in Egypt following recent events there. The letter, drafted by the City Bar’s Committee on International Human Rights, cites President Morsi’s declaration granting his decrees and laws immunity from judicial review until a new constitution has been ratified and a new parliament elected. The declaration also replaced Egypt’s public prosecutor and prevents the judiciary from dissolving the Constituent Assembly. “The Decree abrogates an independent judiciary and nullifies the very purpose for which a judiciary exists—to rule upon and interpret the legality and constitutionality of law, serve as a check and balance upon the other branches of government, and provide a forum in which to redress violations of human rights,” states the letter. The City Bar’s letter asserts that the Declaration is inconsistent with Egypt’s obligations under international law. “The International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (the ‘ICCPR’), to which Egypt is a State Party, requires that Egypt ensure that its judiciary is ‘competent, independent, and impartial’” states the letter. “The UN Basic Principles on the Independence of the Judiciary (‘Basic Principles’) states that judges must be protected from ‘threats or interferences, direct or indirect, from any quarter or for any reason.’ They also require that ‘[j]udges [] be subject to suspension or removal only for reasons of incapacity or behavior that renders them unfit to discharge their duties,’ and that a ‘charge or complaint made against a judge in his/her judicial and professional capacity shall be processed expeditiously and fairly under an appropriate procedure’ where the ‘judge shall have the right to a fair hearing.’” While the powers arising under the Declaration are said to expire once a new constitution is ratified and a new parliament is elected, the letter urges President Morsi “to withdraw it immediately to ensure that these next steps in Egypt’s transition are not impacted by the violations of international law that the Declaration creates.” With copies to Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and Deputy Secretary of State William J. Burns, the letter concludes, “Therefore, the Association respectfully urges you to withdraw the Declaration and allow the transparent review of Executive laws and decrees and adequate time to consider draft laws and measures, which will ensure the independence of the judiciary, strengthen the legitimacy of Egypt’s democratic institutions, and demonstrate your commitment to the rule of law.” Read the letter here.