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Former Egypt high court judge files challenge to new constitution

The former deputy president of the Egyptian Supreme Constitutional Court [official website] on Tuesday announced that she has filed a lawsuit with the court challenging the legality of Egypt's controversial new constitution [text, PDF]. Tahani el-Gebali is the only female judge to sit on the Constitutional Court, the country's highest court, and she was removed from her post [AP report] after nearly a decade of service because the new constitution reduced the size of the court from 18 judges to 10. El-Gebali argues that the independence of the court is violated by the forced reductions and also that provisions that allow the president to approve court members illegitimately deny that power to the court's general secretariat. In her complaint el-Gebali has asked the Constitutional Court to repeal all effects of the new constitution, not just the reduction in the size of the court.

President Mohammed Morsi [BBC backgrounder] signed the constitution into law in December after it passed a controversial referendum [JURIST reports] in which the charter was supported by over 63 percent of those who voted in the referendum. However, only 32.9 percent of Egypt's total of 52 million voters actually participated in the referendum, leading many to debate its results. Earlier in December the UN Working Group on discrimination against women [official website] expressed grave concern [JURIST report] over the draft constitution. UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillay [official profile] has also expressed concern at the rising death toll during the ongoing political chaos in Egypt, saying that Egypt's draft constitution presents serious problems for human rights [JURIST report].

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