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Egypt court delays ruling on parliament, military powers

Egypt's Supreme Administrative Court ruled Thursday that it does not have jurisdiction over two cases related to the decree issued by the newly elected President Mohammed Morsi [BBC profile; JURIST news archive] to reconvene parliament and the constitutional declaration by the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces (SCAF) [NYT backgrounder] that gave the military broad authority including legislative power. Earlier this month, a few days after he was sworn in, Morsi issued [JURIST reports] a decree [text] calling the dissolved Egyptian parliament back into session despite a previous ruling by the country's Supreme Constitutional Court [official website] dissolving it due to its finding that one-third of its members were elected illegally [JURIST report]. The Supreme Constitutional Court suspended the decree two days later after which Morsi vowed that he would respect the ruling [JURIST reports]. SCAF transferred power [JURIST report] to Morsi, before doing so, issued an interim constitution [Egypt State Information Service report, in Arabic] that retains most of its power. For example, the SCAF maintains the sole authority over the military as well as appointment of its officers and commanders. Although the new president can declare war, he is still subject to SCAF's approval. The interim constitution gives the council also legislative powers until a new parliament is elected. SCAF's move was criticized by observers and challenged by politicians [JURIST report] who claim it gives far more power to the council than expected while the president is given only little authority over the state's affairs. The administrative court did not provide its reasoning for Thursday's decision.

Egypt is still struggling with political unrest since former president Hosni Mubarak [Al Jazeera profile; JURIST news archive] was ousted last year. Earlier this month, Morsi issued a decree [JURIST report] appointing a fact-finding committee to investigate the deaths of protesters in last year's demonstrations. A court struck down [JURIST report] a government decree in June that restored broad arrest powers to Egyptian military officials. Days before its dissolution, the Egyptian parliament elected a new constitutional council after lawmakers finally reached an agreement [JURIST reports] on the political composition of the council. In April the country's Administrative Court effectively suspended [JURIST report] the work of the 100-member council responsible for drafting the country's new constitution after ruling in favor of a lawsuit challenging the constitutionality of the formation of the panel. SCAF has been criticized for its use of violence against protesters in an attempt to suppress opposition of any form. Amnesty International (AI) [advocacy website] reported that SCAF has committed [JURIST report] numerous human rights violations, including abuse of protesters and journalists who voice their dissatisfaction with the government.

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