Egypt - Judiciary

by ipr Info-Prod Research (Middle East) Ltd.

A basic understanding of Egyptian law requires some knowledge of the origin and basis of Egyptian jurisprudence. Egyptian legislation can be traced to three major sources: Napoleonic Code, Roman law and Islamic law (Shar'ia).

Egypt is a constitutional democracy based on the principle of separation of powers between the legislative, the executive and the judicial branches. The 1971 Constitution of Egypt, as amended by the referendum of May 22, 1980, is premised upon respect for individual freedoms and for the rule of law. The Constitution is the supreme law of the land and provides for an independent judicial branch. Judges are subject to no other authority but that of the law; they serve until the age of sixty-four, until which time their jobs are secured.

Egyptian legislation is instituted according to the following hierarchy: the Constitution, Parliament legislation, Presidential decree, Prime Minister's decree, ministerial decision and acts of governors and heads of governmental bodies and public corporations.

Laws, Presidential decrees and Decrees of the Prime Minister are published in Egypt's Official Gazette, usually within two weeks of their issuance, and, unless they provide otherwise, they become effective one month from the date of publication. Ministerial decisions as well as other decisions and acts approved for publication are published in the Egyptian Proceedings, a supplement of the Official Gazette.

Until the first half of the 19th century, Egypt, under the leadership of Khedive Ismail and his successors, underwent a rapid process of westernization, which included, inter alia, the adoption of modern codes of law modeled after the French Napoleonic Code. Since that time, Egypt has adopted a more Roman (Civil Law) system, in which matters involving personal status such as marriage, inheritance and divorce were made subject to Islamic substantive law. Currently, the procedural and substantive laws of Egypt are applied throughout the Republic, except in cases of personal status which are decided in accordance with Islamic substantive law in cases involving Muslims whether Egyptians or aliens, Church substantive law in cases involving non-Muslim Egyptians or according to the substantive law of the nation of the litigant parties in cases involving non-Muslim foreigners.

The Egyptian judicial system consists of two separate court structures; the ordinary courts of law and the administrative courts.


The Common Court System

The Common Court System is composed of four tiers, including Summary Courts, Courts of the First Degree, Courts of Appeal and the Supreme Court (Cour de Cassation).


Summary Courts

The Summary Courts have jurisdiction to decide cases involving misdemeanors and minor offenses; civil and commercial cases the value of which do not exceed £E 5,000 as well as minor personal status issues and labor disputes arising between employers and employees.


Court of First Degree

The Courts of the First Degree have jurisdiction to decide all cases involving matters the value of which exceeds £E 5,000 and all major personal status matters, subject to a right of appeal to the Court of Appeal. They also have jurisdiction to hear appeals against decisions of the Summary Courts in civil and commercial cases and misdemeanor criminal offenses.


Courts of Appeal

Courts of Appeal are located in the major cities of Egypt. They have jurisdiction to hear appeals from civil, commercial and personal status cases decided in the first instance by the Courts of First Degree. Furthermore, they have jurisdiction to decide cases involving major crimes the penalty for which is death or imprisonment with hard labor of between three and twenty-five years.


Supreme Court

The Supreme Court (Cour de Cassation) only hears appeals on final judgments of the Courts of Appeal and is only available if a breach of law is claimed as the basis for the appeal.


The Administrative Court System

The judiciary in Egypt, similar to those of France and Italy, does not have jurisdiction to interfere with, repeal or nullify an administrative decree. Nonetheless, a court may award compensatory damages caused to a party by such administrative decree.

The only possible recourse regarding administrative decrees is to bring suit before the Council of State. The Council of State is composed of university trained judges. It alone is vested with the power to declare invalid and to revoke illegal, arbitrary, or abusive administrative decrees issued by government officials and ministries.

The Superior Constitutional Court was established in 1969 and is given exclusive jurisdiction to decide questions regarding the constitutionality of laws, rules and regulations.

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