Egyptian Judges defy new law on judiciary appointments, vote for new head of State Council

Egypt’s State Council General Assembly nominated their own council head despite a recent amendment reserving that right for Abdel Fattah al-Sisi.

The nomination follows a contentious debate over amending the judiciary laws to give the president more control over the judiciary.

Judges from one of the Egyptian judiciary’s three main branches voted to defy a newly adopted and widely disputed law, nominating as head of their branch a judge who ruled against a government decision to surrender two Red Sea islands to Saudi Arabia.

The council nominated Judge Yehia Dakroury to be their council head.

State Council judges, who rule on disputes with the government, voted overwhelmingly to put forward judge Yahya Dakroury, their most senior, as their nominee to head their branch.

This move, in fact, clashes with the new law that stipulates that each judiciary branch nominate three of its seven most senior judges to the president to choose one to head each of the three branches.

The new law gives al-Sisi the power to nominate the council head which means he may ignore the nominations of judges.

If al-Sisi ignores the nomination, experts expected a severe conflict between Egypt’s state institutions, mainly the executive and the judicial institutions.

It is worth  mentioning that the judiciary’s two other branches, the court of cassation and government lawyers, already have complied with the new law, adopted by parliament and ratified by the president last month with uncustomary speed.

Many judges see the law as a contravention of the judiciary’s independence and a violation of the principle of the separation of government branches.

Before the new law is adopted, each branch of the judiciary nominated their most senior judge to head their branch, with the president’s ratification a foregone conclusion.

Al-Sisi will now have to either ratify Dakroury’s nomination to avoid a confrontation with the powerful State Council or independently name one of the most senior judges from that branch as its head.

In fact, Dakroury’s ruling last year on the two Red Sea islands went against the government’s stated position that Tiran and Sanafir, at the mouth of the Red Sea’s Gulf of Aqaba, belonged to Saudi Arabia but were placed under Egyptian control in the 1950s to protect them against a perceived threat from Israel.

His ruling was upheld in January by a higher court, which declared as unconstitutional an Egyptian-Saudi agreement signed in April 2016 to take control over the islands to Riyadh.