[JURIST] Human Rights Watch (HRW) [advocacy website] called on Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi [BBC profile] Sunday to reject amendments to the Code of Criminal Procedure that would interfere [HRW report] with the rights of defense lawyers to call witnesses during trials. The amendments, which were adopted by the Egyptian cabinet in February, give judges the sole discretion in determining what witness testimony will be heard in court. The current laws state that any witnesses with information about a case can come forward to testify, require all testimony to be presented in court unless the defendant agrees to have the evidence submitted as statements read to the court and state that judges are to comply with the testimony brought forth by the defendants. Critics [Daily News report] of the proposed amendments say they are unconstitutional and may violate the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, which guarantees the right to a proper defense for criminal defendants.
Egyptian laws have been under much scrutiny in recent years. Earlier this month a judge for Egypt’s Administrative Court suspended [JURIST report] the country’s upcoming parliamentary elections indefinitely after another court declared the election law’s provision on voting districts unconstitutional. These elections would mark the first time the country has an acting legislature since the court dissolved [JURIST report] the parliament in June 2012 after finding that one-third of its members were elected illegally. Amnesty International (AI) [advocacy website] reported in January that the Egyptian government is failing to protect women’s rights and end violence against women. Egyptian authorities have passed laws that criminalize violent acts toward women, but AI reported that the failure to recognize the wide scale problem and implement the new laws has allowed the violence to continue. Egypt’s protest laws have also come under criticism recently, and in January, Egypt’s Court of Cassation [official website, in Arabic] upheld the convictions and three-year prison sentences of three activists for violating [JURIST report] these laws.