Published on Al-Ahram weekly online, by Mona El-Nahhas, 23 – 29 February 2012.
… The draft law aims to guarantee the independence of the judiciary from the other branches of government, with the authority that the justice minister used to have over the appointment of judges being given to the SJC under the new draft law.
Ahmed El-Zend, chair of the Cairo Judges Club, hurried to associate himself with the new law, asking for a meeting with the head of the SJC, Hossam El-Gheriani, and with Justice Minister Adel Abdel-Hamid to present the views of the country’s various judges clubs on the new legislation.
El-Zend is due to run for re-election at the Cairo Judges Club on 23 March. The views of the various judges clubs were discussed at a meeting hosted by El-Zend on 16 February. “The aim of holding two such meetings is to guarantee the judges’ support for the new draft before it goes to the People’s Assembly,” El-Zend told reporters on Saturday.
While the clubs are thought to approve the draft law, two or three articles are still controversial. At the meeting with El-Zend in February, the chairs of the branch judges clubs expressed their disapproval of an article dealing with the appointment of the country’s prosecutor-general, arguing that clearer criteria should be used.
They also said that the heads of the first- degree courts should not be elected, as in the Mekki draft, since elections could violate the impartiality of the judiciary. Article 7 of the draft law dealing with the status of the Cairo Judges Club should also be discussed further, the chairs said, as under current plans the Club will be dissolved following the passage of the new law.
Commenting on the steps taken by El-Zend and his group on the draft judiciary law, Mekki said that the moves were welcome and expressed his readiness to attend El-Zend’s meeting with El-Gheriani and Abdel-Hamid in order to answer questions on the draft … //
… Last October, El-Zend joined with Mekki in the wake of the lawyers crisis, in which lawyers complained of articles in the new law that they said were “humiliating” to their profession and pressed for their removal from the draft.
Positioning himself as the defender of judges’ rights, El-Zend escalated an already heated situation, eventually causing the cabinet to order a halt to the drafting process until the election of the new parliament.
One group of judges, especially those of a reformist persuasion, views El-Zend’s current moves as being self-interested. These judges argue that the idea of a new judiciary law had not previously crossed El-Zend’s mind, even after he had taken the post of Cairo Club chairman in 2008.
“Why is he meddling in this issue now,” asked Hisham Geneina, former secretary- general of Cairo Judges Club and a leading reformist judge.
Geneina and others have said they will boycott the elections at the Cairo Club. “The nominations were done in secret, and few judges knew the dates. The timing was also suspicious, as the judges were busy supervising the parliamentary elections,” Geneina said, claiming that the aim had been to try to ensure that the members of the current board keep their seats for a further three-year term.
At first, it was announced that the elections would be for one-third of the seats on the board, and partial elections were set for 17 February. However, on 25 January, the club’s board decided to delay the elections until 23 March, stating that the majority of the judges would be too busy supervising the Shura Council polls in February to vote for the club’s board.
Nevertheless, no provisions were made to reopen the nominations, even though many judges have said they will not take part in the elections under present circumstances. The possibility that the current club may be dissolved following the passage of the new law may also explain their reluctance to vote, however. (full text).