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ACIJLP holds the government responsible for the continuation of the crisis of the Egyptian Bar Association, and warns against an escalation of lawyers' protest

Saturday, 20 March 1999

The Arab Center for the Independence of the Judiciary and the Legal
Profession (ACIJLP) follows with deep concern the escalation in the
crisis of the Egyptian Bar Association following preventing Egyptian
lawyers from holding their second extraordinary general assembly which
was scheduled on Thursday 18 March 1999.  Security forces closed the
premises of the General Bar Association, as well as the office of the
Cairo branch of the Bar, which is located in the High Judicial Complex
which also includes the Higher Constitutional Court, the Court of
Cassation, the Higher Court of Appeals, and the office of the Public
Prosecutor.  People, workers and lawyers were not allowed to enter the
building which was surrounded by security vehicles full of  central
security forces and special forces.  There was even trained dogs for
fear of any disturbance by the lawyers.

In their attempt to reach a solution to the Bar crisis, the lawyers
escalated their protest over the past period.  In this contexts, one
month ago, a number of lawyers presented an application signed by 1500
lawyers to the judicial sequestration committee calling for an
extraordinary general assembly,  as stipulated by article 128 of the law
on the legal profession.  According to this article, in case the members
were not invited for an assembly within a maximum period of thirty days
form the date of the application, the general assembly shall be held on
the first day following this period.  The judicial sequestration
committee announced this assembly to be illegal, and informed the Public
Prosecutor who, in his turn, asserted that the Public Prosecution is not
the area of competence regarding the prevention of this assembly.

On Thursday, about 1000 lawyers went to the offices of the General Bar
Association, and were surprised by a large number of security vehicles
and state security men, standing there.  The High Judicial Complex was
not in a better situation than the General Bar.

Thus, the lawyers had to hold their general assembly in front of the
High Judicial Complex at the 26th of July street.  The assembly formed a
temporary committee to be in charge of preparing all the documents and
procedures necessary for holding the elections in order to elect a head
and a council for the Bar Association .

Prior to this development, on 15 March 1999, a number of lawyers
organized a march and presented a note of protest to the head of the
judicial committee in charge of elections in professional unions.  They
called the committee to hold elections in the Bar as soon as possible.

It must be noted that in a press conference on 9 March 1999, Mr. Mahfouz
Shuman, head of said judicial committee on elections in professional
unions, who is also president of the South Cairo Court of First
Instance, said that the committee received the lists of names of members
of the Bar Association without being signed by the heads of its three
branches, and that the judicial sequestration committee did not revise
them to remove names of lawyers who do not practice the legal
profession, the deceased, and those imprisoned in relation to
dishonoring cases.

Although the government announced, officially, that it adopts a neutral
stance towards the lawyers assembly, and although the Public Prosecutor
announced that the Public Prosecution is not the competent authority to
prevent the assembly, the ACIJLP believes that the government bears full
responsibility for hampering this assembly by dispatching large number
of security forces to close the General Bar Association offices as well
as the whole building of the High Judicial Complex.  This action asserts
that the government insisted on preventing any general assembly, and
refutes its claims that the Bar crisis is an internal matter which
reflects disputes and divisions among the lawyers, and its call for them
to unit to solve the crisis!!

The government is thus even escalates its actions against the Bar.  It
had previously allowed an extraordinary general assembly held at the
Cairo branch of the Bar Association in the High Judicial Complex on 15
May 1997, after it prevented the assembly to be held in the offices of
the General Bar Association.

Regardless of the validity of the procedures of this assembly and the
temporary committee it formed, which adds more complications to the
crisis, the ACIJLP condemns the involvement of the government which was
manifested by sending security forces to prevent the assembly.  The
government is thus violates the provisions of articles 23 and 24 of the
UN Basic Principles on the Role of Lawyers.  These articles assert the
right of lawyers to freedom of expression, to form leagues and hold
assemblies without retractions.  They added that lawyers have the right
to form and join professional institutions which they run by themselves,
and that an executive board of the institution shall be elected by its
members to take its responsibilities without outside interference.

The involvement of the government was also asserted in a report issued
in April 1998 by a mission sent by the International Commission of
Jurists (ICJ) to investigate the crisis of the Egyptian Bar
association.  The mission noticed that the government is content with
the continuation of the current situation.

On the other hand, the Arab Center for the Independence of the Judiciary
and the Legal Profession asserts that the delay in revising the
electoral lists cannot be accepted as a reason for not holding  the
elections.  In fact, according to article 6 bis of law 5 of 1995
amending law no 100 of 1993 on professional unions, the judicial
committee on elections in professional unions is legally responsible for
a full supervision of all stages of the electoral process.

The ACIJLP accuses both the judicial committee on elections in
professional unions, which is responsible for preparing the lists, and
the judicial sequestration committee of deliberately hampering the
holding of the elections of the Bar Association.  It urges them to
promptly revise the electoral lists to allow the holding of the
elections which have been postponed for three years now.

The sequestration committee can make sure of the number of lawyers who
have the right to attend the general assembly by referring to the names
of those who paid the subscription fees for 1998, which are recorded on
the computer.  These names will certainly be free from the detained and
deceased lawyers as it is a condition that lawyers pay the fees
personally.  Also the head of the judicial committee on the elections of
professional unions can require a list from the Public Prosecution of
lawyers who are accused in criminal cases.

The ACIJLP believes that the recent escalation would indicate that the
crisis of the Bar Association has entered a new and more complicated
stage, and that the government is paving the way for this crisis to
continue for undetermined period.

The ACIJLP lays full responsibility on the government, the judicial
committee on elections in professional unions, and the judicial
sequestration committee for preventing the holding of the general
assembly of the bar, and thus prolong the bar crisis.  This prevention
violates the UN Basic Principles on the Role of  Lawyers which assert
lawyer's right to set their independent leagues.  The center warns that
the prevention of all legitimate movements by the lawyers would result
in more violent forms of protest by the lawyers.  It calls on the head
of the judicial committee to assume his responsibilities and promptly
manage to have the electoral lists revised, or to form a committee
specially for this purpose, and to set a date for the elections to be
held as soon as possible.


Contact Nasser Amin
Generan Director
8/10 Mathaf el-Manyal St.,
Manyal el-Roda,
Cairo, 11451 Egypt

Tel/Fax(202) 3620732

Human Rights in Egypt

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