Egyptian President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi ratified a law Thursday that will allow him to appoint head judges in the country’s highest courts. The amended law, which was ratified [Youm7 report, in Arabic] when it was published in the official gazette [materials], allows el-Sisi to chose one of three potential judges nominated by each court to be the head of that court. Previously, leadership passed to the most senior member of the court, and the president was expected to sign off on the leadership role in a process that was largely ceremonial. El-Sisi and supporters of the change insist that the move is necessary to strengthen his administration’s authority as they tackle issues such as terrorism, but members of the Egyptian judiciary have resisted the change. On Wednesday, the chairman of the Judges Club, a group with over 9,000 members of the judiciary in Egypt, issued a unified statement [Youm7 report, in Arabic] condemning the amendments. The statement was a response to the passing of the amendment in parliament, a vote that was contested by some officials [video, in Arabic] who feel the change is an unconstitutional violation of the separation of powers. The majority argued that the change is constitutional [video, in Arabic], and narrowly tailored to allow the judiciary to remain independent.
El-Sisi has been viewed by many in the international community as a moderate leader compared to previous Egyptian presidents who were often embroiled in scandals and accusations of corruption. Former president Hosni Mubarak was released from prison [JURIST report] last month after six years in custody. Mubarak and other members of his administration have been consistently involved in judicial proceedings since the Egyptian Revolution [JURIST backgrounder]. In October 2015 another Egyptian court ordered [JURIST report] the release of Mubarak’s sons, Gamal and Alaa Mubarak, after holding that they have completed their three-year prison sentences for embezzlement. Last November, Egypt’s Court of Cassation [official website, in Arabic] overturned the life sentences [JURIST report] of former president Mohamed Morsi and 16 other members of the Muslim Brotherhood. Morsi had been convicted [Al Jazeera report] for conspiring with the Palestinian Hamas and other foreign militant groups.