Defend the Republic
Is the Egyptian State on the path to its downfall?
The disturbing question was put to Judge Tahany al-Gibali last Monday during a seminar held
by the National Participation Forum of the Coptic Orthodox Church’s Youth Bishopric.
Judge Gibali is the first Egyptian female judge. She was appointed to the panel of the Supreme Constitutional Court in 2003, and earned a reputation for being a staunch, outspoken defender of freedoms and rights. When the Islamists came to power in June 2012 and wished to exclude her, they downsized the High Constitutional Court panel from 19 to 11 judges basing upon seniority; this effectively drove Judge Gibali out.
In reply to the question posed at the forum, Gebali answered with a definite “The Egyptian State, sovereignty, and people are at risk. We are now in danger of societal dissociation.
“The foundation statement of the Defend the Republic movement—a movement founded by Judge Gibali and open to all Egyptians to join ranks to establish a democratic republic in Egypt—monitors the revolutionary experience in Egypt since it started in 2011. The upcoming 30 June rebellion should be no different than when the Egyptians rebelled in 2011 demanding that Mubarak should leave.
“Nothing has changed since then,” Gibali insisted, “we just changed the head of State but not the people or the policies. Two years on, we are just about to make the same demands, but under much worse conditions. Back then, there might have been corruption or despotism, but there was a State to be reckoned with. Today, the State is weak, national security is at risk, and is threatened by Islamist takeover. Just look at Egypt’s border territories today: Sinai is in the hands of Jihadis, Nubia is threatening to secede, and Sudan was attempting to take over Halayeb and Shalateen.”
Judge Gibali pointed out that rebellion, no matter how strong the motive behind it, is in itself no guarantee that demands and objectives would be met. “It requires cool, calculated reasoning to make a revolution work. The 2011 revolution was hijacked [by the Islamists]; we cannot afford to be ensnared once more.”
According to Judge Gibali, the public endeavour at achieving change since the January 2011 Revolution has mostly been individual. Tamarud too began as an individual effort but grew to be a nationwide movement. But the downside is that public endeavours were ‘shapeless’ projects; none of them offered any substantial vision for political, economic, or cultural development to shape Egypt’s future.
The current constitution, Judge Gibali reminded, was imposed on us by the Islamists. It was written by an Islamist-dominated panel and passed overnight. It includes disastrous items that were tailored to Islamist ends, and contradicts all consensual principles. The main battle the Islamists are now fighting, she insisted, is against the State of law. For them, it is a matter of life or death.
It is no secret that, at the end of the day, the 30 June rebellion possesses no guarantees for success, especially given that the current ruling regime will never give up its grip on power without a fierce fight, and that Egypt has today become a Jihadi stronghold. If anything, this indicates that the post-30 June days will be far from peaceful.
Judge Gibaly said that a vision of the post-30 June features have been offered for public debate by the Defend the Republic movement. The statement offers a framework for the transitional period which should involve drafting a new constitution to be followed by presidential elections. “We need a new administration whose priorities would coincide with those of the Egyptian people,” she said. “National security should be a top priority.”
Features of the transitional period
The major features of the transitional phase as outlined by the Defend the Revolution document were cited by Judge Gibali. The army should guard the transitional period, and the current Islamist constitution should be suspended and the 1971 Constitution put into effect until a new one is written. Presidential, parliamentary and regional elections should be carried out according to a new law governed by the new constitution.
An independent cabinet should be in charge of government and the executive responsibilities of the president. An independent figure, someone with the proper credentials and a keen sense of national security should head the cabinet. “We hope,” Judge Gibali said, “that this figure would be a civil personality with good military understanding.”
It is essential to put into action old presidential decisions that were issued back in 1968 and 1970 and have been to date idle, relating to the formation of a Supreme Council for National Security (SCNS) to handle national security and defence during the transitional period. It should include as members the prime minister and the ministers of defense, foreign affairs, interior, finance and economy. The General Intelligence would be in charge of the SCNS’s administration, Gibali said. The chief of staff of the armed forces, the military intelligence chief, and the head of the national security apparatus should be inactive members.
The constitutionally invalid Shura (Consultative) Council, the upper house of the Egyptian parliament should be dissolved, and a ministry of justice committee temporarily placed in charge of the legislation.
The Supreme Constitutional Court, with its former panel that was changed by Mursi, should be placed in charge of the transitional period on the constitutional and legal levels.
Judge Gibal presided over a round-table convention of Egyptian constitutional and legal experts last Wednesday 19 June, The experts pronounced as legitimate the Tamarud effort to bring down President Mursi. The decision was taken basing on the fact that Mursi’s one year in office has seen exceptional events that were in the main part illegal. Mursi was sworn in according to a specific constitutional document which he later violated; this in itself renders his presidency illegal. There were also the so-called constitutional declarations by which Mursi granted himself sweeping powers, and which were declared illegal by the Administrative Court in Cairo.
Judge Gibali asked the Tamarud leaders to hand in their signed documents to the Supreme Constitutional Court. Basing upon the decision that Tamarud is a legitimate movement, the more than 15 million signatures gathered have the power to level a no-confidence vote at President Mursi.
23 June 2013