[JURIST] Egypt’s Supreme Constitutional Court [official website] on Sunday postponed ruling whether the legislative constitutional assembly that just last week drafted a new charter was legitimate. The judges claimed a crowd of Islamists outside the courthouse of had intimidated the judges and blocked the entrance to the courthouse. The judges stated that they were suspending the court’s sessions [NYT report] until they could return to work without the threat of harm and other external pressures. However, the Islamists countered, accusing the judges of fabricating an excuse for failing to show up and claimed that the courthouse’s exterior was much quieter than the judges had presented. Hundreds of riot police officers, a fire truck and several armored personnel carriers were available to secure the judges’ entry to the courthouse, and several people were able to enter and leave the courthouse without harm. Egypt’s Ministry of Interior [official website] had arranged to secure the entrance and protect the judges and stated that the protests were peace and some judges had arrived safely. The constitutional court has been unclear about when it might continue work or issue a decision on the legislative assembly.
Egypt has been plagued by continuing protests and violence since the beginning of the revolution. The UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillay [official profile] in late January voiced concern [JURIST report] over the growing violence and rising death toll in Egypt stemming from ongoing protests throughout the country. Earlier in January, Morsi declared a state of emergency in an attempt to quell growing unrest and violent political protests in cities a day after nationwide unrest compounded following an Egyptian court ruling handing down 21 death penalties [JURIST reports] for a 2012 soccer riot that resulted in 74 deaths and thousands of injuries. Also in January, an Egyptian rights group reported [JURIST report] that police abuse and torture continue to be ongoing issues and that police conduct has not improved since the abuses faced under the old regime. Egypt’s Supreme Constitutional Court was forced to indefinitely halt operations [JURIST report] in December amid pressure from protesters attempting to block judges from entering the court. Protests in the country have been increasing since Morsi signed the new constitution [JURIST report] into law earlier that month. Many individuals and rights groups have questioned the validity of the constitution, as only 32.9 percent of Egypt’s total of 52 million voters actually participated in the referendum to approve it.