PoliticsPublic Policy

Egypt’s Taming of Judiciary: The Case of the SCJB

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Judicial customs have settled on formation of boards of directors for judicial bodies and agencies, with multiple powers and burdens, based on laws acquired by the judiciary from various regimes. Contrary to these established custom, the Supreme Council for Judicial Bodies and Agencies (SCJB) was incepted in 1969 under President Gamal Abdel Nasser, giving the first and last word in judicial affairs exclusively to the President of the Republic.

The Supreme Council for Judicial Bodies and Agencies was established by Law 82 of 1969[1], which granted it the competencies of several councils, including the Supreme Judicial Council, the Supreme Consultative Council of Prosecutions, and the State Council’s General Assembly and Special Council for Administrative Affairs, as well as the competencies of the committee managing the administrative prosecution and its director.

With cancellation of appointment in all judicial bodies under the pretext of restructuring, the plan was completed – where President Gamal Abdel Nasser issued Decree No. 1603 of 1969 for “the re-appointment at the judicial bodies and the public prosecution”, with the exclusion of appointment of 127 people of the judiciary and the Public Prosecution, obviously, not from the authority cronies[2]

In 1984, the Supreme Judicial Council, with all its powers, was restored[3], while the Supreme Council of Judicial Bodies and Agencies continued to work with its broad powers that chained councils of judicial bodies. However, the tireless efforts led by the pro-judicial independence judges in 2005 and thereafter produced a new reality that forced the Mubarak regime to include some of their demands in the constitutional amendments conducted in 2007, which eased the dominance granted to the Supreme Council of Judicial Bodies and Agencies, where it became, according to these amendments, a mere coordinating council that takes care of common affairs among various councils of judicial bodies, with provision for independence of each council in managing its own affairs and the interests of its members, noting that this amendment was included in Law No. 192 of 2008 (), stipulating in Article 1 that it (a council of judicial bodies shall be formed to look after their common affairs of and coordinate between them, where it is also entrusted with coordination in common matters stated in any law…). Note that the new text excluded deleted the word “Supreme” from the council’s official name, limiting its role to “”coordination” and “care”, stating in Article 1, “…without prejudice to the competencies of the higher councils of these bodies”. It also explicitly stipulated in Article 6 abolition of Law 82 of 1969 on the Supreme Council of Judicial Bodies and Agencies.

Return of SCJB after 2013

The post-coup (2013) regime adopted several methods to control and dominate judiciary, using appointments and laws governing the judicial bodies, as well as amendment of the Constitution and a series of legal amendments, most prominently procedural laws being the judge’s key kit in judgment and  jurisdiction, such as the penal code, criminal procedures and others.

The Sisi regime didn’t stop there; as in its quest to tighten control over the judicial bodies, it revived the Supreme Council of Judicial Bodies and Agencies through the constitutional amendments conducted in 2019, granting it powers that are considered much broader than its first version in 1969, including exclusive mechanisms for appointing heads of judicial agencies and bodies, and the SCIB right to consider terms of appointment, promotion, and disciplining, and to be consulted on the draft laws regulating these bodies and agencies.

This is viewed as a plain manifestation of interference and control, much severer and deeper than the Abdel Nasser regime’s previous interventions.

Jurisdiction and formation[4]

[1] Official Gazette Issue No. 35 bis, 31 August 1969

[2] Shorouk newspaper, 2 October 2019, https://cutt.us/3eCxg

[3] Law 35 of 1984 was issued to amend Judicial Power Law No 46 of 1972, Official Gazette No. 13 bis on 31 March 1984

[4] The views expressed in this article are entirely those of the author’s and do not necessarily reflect the views of the Egyptian Institute for Studies

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