Egypt: authorities must end actions against independent judges
The ICJ is deeply concerned over the decision of the High Judicial Council and the President of the Cairo Court of Appeal to investigate two judges with a view to referring them to the disciplinary Council.
Media reports have indicated that Assem Abdel Jabar, deputy president of the Cassation Court, and Hicham Raouf, a judge in Cairo’s Appeal Court, are being investigated over their individual participation, together with other leading lawyers and legal experts, in a workshop organized by an Egyptian organization, United Group, to discuss and propose new legislation on the prevention of torture.
According to information available to the ICJ, the two judges have so far not been formally notified of any charges against them and have received no information about the allegations on which they are based.
The actions against these judges continue a pattern of intimidation and attempted silencing of judges who are seen by authorities as not aligning themselves with government objectives.
The apparent investigation is only the latest in a string of cases where judges have been subject to arbitrary disciplinary proceedings for legitimately exercising their rights to freedom of expression and assembly.
On 14 March 2015, the Disciplinary Council forced 31 judges into retirement for signing a statement, on 24 July 2013, which criticized the “attack on the constitutional legitimacy and the ouster of the legitimate president that was elected”.
The disciplinary proceedings against these judges were marred with violations of due process rights.
The judges were not adequately informed of the date and location of the hearings, defence witnesses were not called and requests by the judges that the hearings be public were disregarded.
On 4 April 2015, a disciplinary hearing took place against Zakaria Abdelaziz, former president of Egypt’s Judges Club and one of the leading advocates for judicial independence in Egypt.
The charges alleged “involvement in politics” and “breaking into the State Security Building during a demonstration on 5 March 2011”.
According to information available to the ICJ, the case files were not made available to Zakaria Abdeaziz until the first hearing despite repeated requests to obtain them.
Under international human rights law and standards, judges are guaranteed the right to freedom of belief, association, assembly and expression, including by commenting on matters of public concern and matters pertaining to the rule of law and human rights situation in a country.
“Instead of subjecting judges to arbitrary proceedings for lawfully exercising their rights, the Egyptian authorities should stop its sustained campaign to muzzle judges who are seen as not friendly to the authorities,“ said Said Benarbia, Director of the ICJ MENA programme. “The Egyptian authorities must reinstate all judges who were removed from office solely for exercising their rights to freedom of expression and assembly and drop all charges against those currently subject to disciplinary proceedings for charges stemming from the exercise of these rights.”
Alice Goodenough, Legal Adviser of the ICJ Middle East and North Africa Programme, t: +44 7815 570 834, e-mail: alice.goodenough(a)icj.org
Nader Diab, Associate Legal Adviser of the ICJ Middle East and North Africa Programme, t: +41 229 793 804, e-mail: nader.diab(a)icj.org
Egypt-Judges harassed-News-web story-2015-ARA (full text in PDF)