The Week in Egypt [July 21, 2014]

Catch up on the latest out of Egypt every week, with analysis, news updates, photos, videos, and more.

Quote of the Week

“It is apparent that the convicted three journalists of Al Jazeera English enjoyed all the guarantees embodied within the ambit of the right to fair trial. And their rights and freedoms were never violated or infringed upon at any time.” State Information Service, on behalf of the Ministry of Justice’s International Cooperation Department in a statement defending the June 23 verdict that sentenced three journalists to prison for seven to ten years

Egypt in the News







Expendable Egypt: Why Cairo Can’t Broker a Ceasefire Between Israel and Hamas | Bendetta Berti and Zack Gold, Foreign Affairs

The 2012 Gaza war was an important test for Egypt’s last president. So, too, is the current conflict a test for Sisi. The Egyptian president has openly stated his desire to be directly involved in restoring calm. Egyptian intelligence and security leaders recognize the detrimental effect of tensions on Egypt’s borders. And so, Israel and the international community are watching to see if Sisi can be an effective partner. At an even deeper level, if Sisi can reach an agreement with Hamas, despite the vitriolic rhetoric directed at the Palestinian group from Cairo, it could also signal the new president’s potential to reconcile with domestic political opponents that have been on the receiving end of similar rhetoric.

For Hamas, Egypt’s involvement must go further than reinstating a simple cease-fire based on “quiet-for-quiet” between the two sides, while leaving political developments for future discussions. The recent proposal is strikingly similar to the 2012 agreement, which began to fall apart soon after it became clear that the promised normalization of Gaza would not be forthcoming. Stability between Hamas and Israel will require a long-term political approach for Gaza. Hamas could reasonably conclude that, if the sympathetic Morsi government could not achieve such an outcome, there is little chance that the anti-Hamas Sisi government would accept such a paradigm shift. And, to date, it is indeed unclear that they would.

The Courts for Urgent Matters: Legislation from the Bench | Mai El-Sadany, TIMEP

Since the ousting of former President Mohamed Morsi, the judiciary has taken on an increasingly active voice in issuing verdicts that have far-reaching political and civil rights implications, raising serious concerns on the role of the Egyptian judiciary and the lack of checks on this state institution. However, what has been truly remarkable is the rise of the Court for Urgent Matters, a judicial body that has long flown underneath the radar and is little understood by most observers.

Starting in September of 2013, in response to heightened mass alienation of the Muslim Brotherhood and in the wake of the Rabaa and Nahda sit-in dispersals, the Cairo Court for Urgent Matters began a stream of politicized verdicts by banning the Muslim Brotherhood and freezing its funding, ultimately paving the way for the presidential decree which labeled the group as a terrorist organization shortly thereafter; the same Court would formally designate the group as a terrorist organization in February of the following year.

Even more broadly, the Courts for Urgent Matters have taken a clear stance against all forms of opposition and issued injunctions that seriously impact the ability of individuals to protest.

From a legal perspective, there is no doubt that the Courts for Urgent Matters have exceeded their jurisdiction.

In a system in which very few checks exist to keep the judiciary in check, having an urgent court that values speed and efficiency over justice is problematic in and of itself; however, it becomes exponentially more problematic when this court begins to settle disputes that are significantly beyond its jurisdiction and have long-term political implications that may take years to overcome. Determining whether a political organization should be banned, for example, is a matter to be settled by months of deliberation in a constitutional or administrative court, rather than an issue quickly decided through hasty sessions and after superficial review of evidence in a court meant to handle basic civil disputes. Although analysts have long turned a blind-eye to the activity of the Court for Urgent Matters, it is becoming painfully clear that, in the absence of a national parliament, the Court has begun to legislate from the bench in a manner that Egypt can no longer afford to ignore.

On Twitter

Egypt’s Ministry of Social Solidarity presented its draft legislation for a new civil society draft law on June 26. On July 14, Human Rights Watch (HRW) issued a statement condemning the draft law and calling for it to be discarded and replaced. Joe Stork, deputy Middle East and North Africa director at HRW, warned that the draft law would “extinguish a crucial element of democracy in Egypt.” Since being presented, the draft law has continued to garner domestic and international criticism.

Video of the Week

In his first remarks after being released from prison, former Egyptian Prime Minister Hisham Qandil, who was appointed by former president Mohamed Morsi, says that Egypt is in need of justice and describes the spread of injustice as bad for the country’s future. Egypt’s Court of Cassation accepted Qandil’s appeal after he was sentenced to one year in prison and fined EGP 2,000.


Freedom of expression and assembly in Egypt | European Parliament

The EU parliament passed a resolution on Thursday, July 17th 2014 on freedom of expression and assembly in Egypt. In light of recent violations of freedom of the press and expression in Egypt, the resolution strongly condemned and called for an end to all acts of violence and harassment against political opponents, protesters, journalists, civil society actors, minorities, and others. The resolution called the the Egyptian government to recognize its responsibility to ensure the security and safety of all citizens irrespective of their political views or affiliations. It also expressed deep concern over recent court decisions in Egypt, particularly the recent sentencing of three Al Jazeera journalists and the confirmation of 183 death sentences against alleged Muslim Brotherhood supporters. The resolution urged the Egyptian government to “immediately and unconditionally release all those detained, convicted and/or sentenced solely for peacefully exercising their rights to freedoms of expression and association.” Finally, it called on the EU to ban the export of all “intrusion and surveillance technologies” citing possible use “to spy on and repress citizens”, and an additional ban on security equipment and military aid to Egypt “that could be used in the suppression of peaceful protest”.

Fragile States Index 2014 | Fund for Peace

The Fund for Peace released its 2014 Fragile States Index, in which Egypt’s ranking worsened from 34th to 31st out of a total of 178 countries from 2013 to 2014. The index placed Egypt in the “Alert” category, which is the third worst of eleven possible tiers ranging from “Very High Alert” for the most fragile states to “Very Sustainable” to the least fragile states. The index recorded worsening trends in Egypt’s social, economic, political and military indicators and cited human rights, state legitimacy, and “factionalized elites and group grievances” as top problem areas. Egypt’s “Human Rights and Rule of Law” indicator received the worst score, as sub-indicators such as press freedom, civil liberties, political freedoms, human trafficking, political prisoners, incarceration, religious persecution, and torture and executions reflected a deterioration in human rights. Egypt’s total score on the index came in at 91 out of a possible 120.  According to the index’s metrics, Egypt’s overall condition saw a “marginal worsening” between 2008 and 2013.


On EgyptSource

Image: Photo: Egyptian Minister of Foreign Affairs meets with his Palestinian counterpart, Minister Riad al-Maliki in Cairo on July 14 (MFA)