Egyptian President Mohamed Morsi [BBC profile] on Sunday ended a controversial decree that had greatly expanded his presidential powers. Although the move was viewed as a concession [CNN report] to protesters who had called for the end of the decree [JURIST report], Morsi refused to push the constitutional referendum on Egypt’s draft constitution [text, PDF] back from December 15, which the protesters had also wanted [JURIST report]. Terminating the decree does not rescind any of the decisions Morsi made while the decree was in place, such as his approval of the draft constitution. Those decisions were not subject to judicial oversight and cannot be challenged in the court system. The announcement, given by a presidential adviser, followed a presidential “national dialogue” meeting [Reuters report] that was boycotted by the president’s opponents. Egyptian authorities claim six people have died as a result of the protests, and the Muslim Brotherhood has said the clashes have claimed the lives of eight members.
Egypt’s revolution [JURIST backgrounder] last year has generated many political clashes, particularly regarding the draft constitution. Last week UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillay [official profile] expressed grave concern [JURIST report] at the rising death toll during the ongoing political chaos. Pillay complained that Egypt’s draft constitution passed without the participation of Christian or liberal legislators and that it omitted references to international human rights treaties that Egypt had ratified. Also last week Egypt’s Supreme Judicial Council agreed to oversee the national referendum [JURIST report] on the country’s new constitution and planned to delegate about 10,000 judges to monitor the referendum. In late November Egyptian courts suspended work [JURIST report] to protest Morsi’s decree because it had removed judicial review of his actions. In October Human Rights Watch [advocacy website] urged Egypt to amend its proposed constitution [JURIST report] to comply with international treaties. In July, a few days after he was sworn in as president, Morsi issued a decree [JURIST reports] calling the Egyptian parliament back into session, despite a previous ruling by the Supreme Constitutional Court dissolving parliament after finding that one-third of its members were elected illegally. The court suspended Morsi’s decree two days later, after which Morsi vowed that he would respect the ruling [JURIST reports]. 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.