[JURIST] Egypt's Supreme Constitutional Court [official backgrounder] ruled Sunday that female judges can serve on the State Council (Maglis id-Dowla), an administrative court system with jurisdiction over cases involving the state. In its ruling, the court emphasized the equality of all citizens [AP report]. Last month, the general assembly of the State Council voted [JURIST report] to bar the appointment of female judges to the court. The council's supervisory committee later overruled that bar, which led Prime Minister Ahmed Nazif [official profile] to ask the Supreme Court to rule on the issue. Sunday's ruling stated that the general assembly did not have the authority to determine who can serve on the court and that only the supervisory committee can approve new judges. The supervisory committee is expected to review the issue [AFP report] later this month.
Last month, Human Rights Watch (HRW) [advocacy website] condemned [press release] the general assembly's vote and argued that all judicial positions should be open to women. In 2007, 31 Egyptian women were selected [JURIST report] as judges by Egypt's Supreme Judicial Council, and later appointed by presidential decree despite ongoing resistance from the nation's conservatives. Council chief Mukbil Shakir selected the judges from a pool of state prosecutors who had passed a test for the positions. The move marked the first time in Egypt's history that women were named to preside over criminal or civil cases. In 2003, Tahany el-Gebaly became the nation's first female judge [Arabic News report] as a member of the Egyptian constitutional tribunal.