The Supreme Council of the Judiciary Authorities (SCJA) convening Wednesday 2 June 2021 in Cairo issued decisions which were described as “historic” by the spokesperson for the presidency, Bassam Rady.
President Abdel-Fattah al-Sisi presided over the meeting which saw participation of the member Justices Omar Marwan, Minister of Justice; Said Marei, President of the Supreme Constitutional Court; Abdullah Shouda, President of the Supreme Judicial Council; Mahmoud Hussam Eddin, President of the State Council; Abdo al-Awdan, President of Cairo Appeals Court; Public Prosecutor Hamada al-Sawi; and other senior members of the prosecution as well as Justice Nagah Moussa, Trustee General of the SCJA.
The first decision decreed by the SCJA was to implement, as of 1 October 2021, the President’s last March directive to appoint women to positions in the Supreme Judicial Council and the State Council. Other decisions included decrees which ensure that appointments to posts to the judiciary and prosecution are more equitable and transparent; the date 1 October of every year would be a Judiciary Day; and that a Judiciary City be established in Egypt’s new administrative capital still under construction.
In March 2021, Egypt’s State Council approved the appointment of women judges to its panel, a first in the history of the Council. The State Council is Egypt’s highest administrative court, and has always opposed appointing women. Although women have occupied various judicial posts elsewhere, those applying for posts as judges on the State Council were invariably rejected on alleged Islamic religious grounds. A number of appeals were filed by women over the past several years over the matter.
The appointment of women judges to the State Council came in response to directives by President Abdel-Fattah al-Sisi sent earlier in March to Justice Minister Omar Marwan, urging him to coordinate with the heads of the Supreme Judicial Council and the State Council to ensure that women become members in these two bodies, the Ministry said in a statement. The President said that such a move would fulfill the constitutional entitlement of complete equality of women to men, and non-discrimination basing on gender.
President Sisi expressed his absolute respect and appreciation for Egyptian women who, he said, “diligently represent the conscience of the nation … they are an inexhaustible spring of generosity and goodness, a renewable source of security and sacrifice. Women are the primary source of wisdom and principles, the basis of family building and social cohesion.”
The decision received wide praise by Egypt’s National Council for Women, which described the President’s initiative as one that represents “a political will that has always been fair to the Egyptian woman.” It was also commended by various women organisations.
“This was the best news ever on International Women’s Day [8 March] and Egyptian Woman’s Day [16 March]” Omnia Gadallah, assistant lecturer at Al-Azhar University’s Faculty of Shariaa and Law, had then said of the President’s directive.
Ms Gadallah had launched a movement in 2014 under the title of “HerHonorSettingTheBar” as a rights awareness initiative aiming to support female law graduates and to end the discrimination that keeps Egyptian women from acting as judges outside family courts. She had herself been prevented, along with other 2013 female law graduates, from applying to judicial positions in the State Council, in flagrant discrimination compared to their male counterparts. She filed two lawsuits claiming for her and other female’s rights.
In December 2020, President Sisi had approved the Supreme Constitutional Court’s decision to appoint three deputies to the Head of the Supreme Constitutional Court; they included a woman, Judge Fatma Muhammad Ahmad al-Razzaz, Dean of Helwan University’s Faculty of Law. At the time, Ms Gadallah applauded the decision to appoint Judge Razzaz as a SCC member, remarking that this is only the second time in the history of SCC since its formation in 1969 that a woman is appointed among its members. Ms Gadallah told Watani that these were good first steps, but that women are not sufficiently represented in the SCC, “this is only one woman among 14 men,” she said. She said she wished to see the day when women’s assumption of positions in the judiciary would become a natural process as they progress in their legal careers, and would not be only through appointment.
4 June 2021