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Summary of the first Arab Report on JusticeThe situation of Justice and the Independence of the Judiciary and the Legal Profession in 1998

Arab Center for the Independence of the Judiciary and the Legal Profession

On 25 July 1999, the first Arab report on Justice was issued on the
situation of justice and the independence of the judiciary and the legal
profession Arab countries.  The report covers Jordan, Bahrain, Tunisia,
Sudan, Palestine, Yemen, and Egypt.

The report is divided into three parts

1. A background on the legal and constitutional situation regarding the
independence of the judiciary and the legal profession, and main
legislative developments regarding the rule of law took place in the
countries it covers.

2. Country reports, which details the main developments related to
justice in these countries, whether in terms of the legislation issued,
or the violations of the rights of judges and lawyers.  It must be noted
here that these violations do not represent the actual size, they are
only the violations  which the center was able to verify and document.

3. The recommendations of the Arab Center for the Independence of the
Judiciary and the Legal Profession

Within the framework of international human rights standards in general,
and those on the independence of the judiciary and the legal profession
in particular, the first part of the report reviews Arab constitutions,
with a view to finding out to what extent they provide the safeguards
and guarantees for the independence of the judiciary, and for the
protection of human rights in general.

The report points out that although most of Arab constitutions assert
the independence of the judiciary, they make it the responsibility of
the legislature to organize the distribution of judicial jurisdiction
and the order of courts and etc.  Also, although Arab constitutions
guarantee the right to a defense, they do not include any details for
this right. Many of them do not even provide safeguards against
detention.  The Jordanian constitution for example does not include any
article to the effect that the accused is innocent until proven
otherwise.  The report reviews the right to a defense in more details in
the Egyptian, Yemeni, Jordanian, and Moroccan constitutions.

A major development on justice and the rule of law in 1998 was the
adoption of the Arab Convention Against Terrorism, which was issued on
22 April 1998.  It must however be noted that the provisions of this
convention is so general, and, to a great extent, threaten the rights
and freedoms of citizens and violate the principle that people are
innocent until proven guilty.  Moreover, it can be said that the
provisions of this convention provide more protection for Arab
governments, and that they have been made to pursue political opposition
and not only the perpetrators of terrorist crimes.  This fact is
manifested in paragraphs 2 and 3 of article 1, paragraph B of article 2,
and article 25 of the convention.

In the part on country reports, the report presents violations of the
right of judges and lawyers took place in 1998.  Major among these was
the enforced retirement of Justice Farouk Al-Kilany, Head of Supreme
Judicial Council and President of the Jordanian Court of Cassation.

1998 also witnessed a number of interventions in the formation of
courts, appointment of judges,  the creation of special courts,
pressurizing judicial councils, and impeding the reformation movement.

Major among the violations were those reported on Bahrain where the Bar
Association Board was dissolved, and lawyers were prevented to contact
their clients accused in political cases.  Some of the lawyers were even
detained for long periods merely for taking such cases.  Lawyers were
also prevented to offer legal assistance to detainees.  Moreover, there
was no independent and neutral judicial body which could be sought to
consider the detention orders against lawyers.

In Tunisia, many attacks took place on justice, major among them were
the referral of lawyers to court for acts related to their professional
duty, the prevention of lawyers from traveling, harassing lawyers and
preventing them to perform their professional duty.  Among these attacks
were the trial of lawyer Radya Nasrawy, and the constant harassment of
the independent candidate for the Bar board, Basheer Al-Eid.

In Sudan, the main violations were the intervention in the affairs of
the Sudanese Bar Association, the creation of exceptional courts which
disregard safeguards of the defense, and the detention of lawyers and
exposing them to security harassment.  Examples of these violations were
the biased elections held for the board of the Bar Association, and in
the many violations committed against Ghazi Soliman, the candidate of
the Democratic Alliance for the Restoration of Democracy.  In addition
to the formation of many exceptional courts such as military courts (the
Court of the Military Square), many judges were exposed to a number of
security practices which restrict their legitimate right to express
their opinion.

In Palestine, the main attack on justice was manifested in the
continuation of the detention of 3400 Palestinian citizens in the
Israeli prisons, without charges or trials.  Even in the cases when they
were referred to courts, all safeguards provided for interrogations were
disregarded, particularly the safeguards against obtaining confessions
through torture, a practice which the Israeli Supreme Court of Justice
made legitimate.

Regrettably, the violations of the rights of judges and lawyers were not
committed by the Israeli authorities only.  The Palestinian National
Authority also showed a disregard of judicial rulings, and intervened in
the affairs of the judiciary and prosecution offices. These
interventions led to the resignation of Fayiz Abu Rahma, the Public
Prosecutor, following the intervention of the executive authority in his
work when it objected to his decision releasing a number of detainees
arrested on no legal ground.

Attacks on justice took place in Egypt also through passing new laws
which eroded the independence of the judiciary, and disregarded the rule
of law.  Examples of these laws were law no. 6 of 1998 against thuggery,
which was a flagrant violation on the freedoms of citizens and their
rights to expression of opinion and to peaceful assembly.  Similarly,
law 168 of 1998 was issued curtailing the role of the Supreme
Constitutional Court.  This law was also a blatant intervention in some
lawsuits the court was hearing on paying-back taxes.  In addition, this
year witnessed the amendment of the Code of Criminal Procedure.  This
amendment, though an attempt towards developing the Code, was limited.
It added more restrictions on the rights of citizens such as restricting
the right to appeal, and expanded the powers given to the Public
Prosecutor.  This was in addition to the continuation of the Bar
Association crisis in Egypt.

On another level, although the Minister of the Interior issued a
circular firmly putting an end to ill-treatment of citizens in police
stations,  attacking lawyers in police stations continued to be
practiced on wide scale.  Lawyers were subjected to detention, torture,
cruel treatment, and insults in police stations.  These practices also
included destruction of their Bar membership cards, preventing lawyers
to see  their detained clients, raiding their offices and destroying
their files,  neglecting queries made by lawyers about their illegally
detained clients.  The report includes a number of cases of the
violation of lawyers rights, major among these was forcing a lawyer to
shut down his office after destroying it by a policeman.

The report concludes with a number of recommendations, mainly among them

1. That Arab constitutions must include the safeguards of the
independence of the judiciary stipulated in international treaties,
particularly the United Nations Principles on the Independence of the
Judiciary, which stresses the importance of the abolition of all forms
of exceptional judiciary.

2. That Arab constitutions must include provisions restricting the power
given to the legislature (Arab parliaments) in distributing judicial
jurisdiction and deciding the order of courts

3. That Arab constitutions must clearly penalize detention without
charge or trial.

Human Rights in Egypt

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