Derechos Human RightsReport

Bar crisis turns into a catastrophe

April 1999

The ACIJLP appeals to international jurist organizations to call upon the Egyptian government to put an end to the crisis In an extremely serious development, the premises of the Bar Association was closed, its administrative responsibilities were suspended, and some of its services were transferred to the branches and to some lawyers' private offices. This step would be a real breakdown of the legal profession in Egypt. The current crisis of the Bar Association is the worst in its history. Since the holding of an extraordinary general assembly on 18 March 1999, the Bar premises, has been closed by security forces. Accordingly, the squestrators in charge of the bar decided to distribute its services to its branches, as well as to some lawyers' private offices. Hence, the Giza branch will be responsible for matters related to lawyers pension, the office of Abdel-Aziz Gabr, lawyer and the third sequestrator, will take care of the medical services. It must be noted that the sequestrators described the closing of the Bar, which was made under the claim of making some renovations, as being a governmental decision and that they had no relation to it. The Arab Center for the Independence of the Judiciary and the Legal Profession (ACIJLP) can assert that no renovations have taken place over the past fifteen days, since the closing of the bar premises. It also asserts that since 19 March, the building has been surrounded with large number of security forces, a fact that confirms the involvement of the government, and indicates its clear intention not to hold elections in a near future. It must be noted that the government has been ignoring judicial rulings (23 rulings to date) by the State Council to the effect that elections must be held at the Bar Association. The lawyers found no other way but to hold their general assembly in the street such was the case on 15 May 1997, and 18 March 1999, in spite of the many obstacles imposed by the government. The ACIJLP regrets to say that this drastic development was a natural consequence of the non existence of democratically elected council and head of the Bar. It warns that the new escalation would block the way for any peaceful solution of the crisis, and open the door for violent protest acts by lawyers. The ACIJLP, based on its close follow up on the crisis, would assert that it has led to the suspension and disturbance of many services and committees, such as 1- Suspension of works of the committee for the defense of freedoms, which defends people accused in cases of opinion 2- Suspension of the work of the committee on Arab affairs 3- Suspension of the work of the general library of the Association 4- Suspension of the work of the regional committee of female lawyers 5- Suspension of the work of the youth committee 6- Non-attendance of members of the bar council at interrogations taking place with lawyers by the Public Prosecution 7- Suspension of registering lawyers in the lists of practitioners, and suspension of obtaining lawyers subscriptions 8- Suspension of sealing contracts, made by lawyers, with the Bar seal, which is a legal condition for the validity of contracts 9- Disturbance in receiving pensions by lawyers 10- Disturbance in receiving free medical service 11- Hampering the filing of many law-suits due to the non-availability of the legal profession stamp which must be put on the pleading declaration and also on applications for attending sessions. The stamp used to be sold by the Bar Association. The center regrets to say that the suspension of all these services, and assigning a lawyer's office to take care of some of them, is an irresponsible disregard of the rights of people in general, and lawyers in particular, shown by those in charge of the bar in its crisis. It asserts that the continuation of the closure of the bar premises is a serious escalation of the crisis that would lead to a breakdown of the legal profession in Egypt. The ACIJLP appeals to international jurist organizations in general, and the International Commission of Jurists, the International Bar Association, and the International Association of Lawyers in particular, to call upon the Egyptian government to remove all the obstacles it has been imposing on holding of elections in the Egyptian Bar Association since three years, and to hold elections soon. ContactNasser Amin 8/10 Mathaf el-Manyal St., Manyal el-Roda, Cairo , 11451 Egypt Tel/Fax (202) 3620732

Human Rights in Egypt

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