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An Overview of the Egyptian Legal System and Legal Research

 

By Dr. Mohamed S. Abdel Wahab
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Dr. Mohamed S. E. Abdel Wahab, Licence en Droit (CAI), LL.M (CAI), Ph.D (MAN), MCI Arb. is an Assistant Professor at Faculty of Law, Cairo University, Egypt and Assistant Director of the Human Rights Centre at Cairo University. He has taught on the LL.M, LL.B, and BA programs at Manchester and Manchester Metropolitan Universities, England. Dr. Abdel Wahab is currently a Fellow of the Centre for Information Technology and Dispute Resolution at the University of Massachusetts, Amherst, USA.  He was appointed vice-president of the Cairo branch of the Chartered Institute of Arbitrators in 2005. He also works as a Legal Advisor in the Cairo Regional Centre for International Commercial Arbitration, as a Counselor for International Legal Affairs to the Information Technology Industry Development Agency, as a legal counsel in a number of international commercial arbitration disputes, and acts as a sole arbitrator and co-arbitrator in a number of cases. He works with the United Nations Expert Group on Online Dispute Resolution, and is affiliated with the Computer Crime Research Centre, Ukraine.

 

Dr. Abdel Wahab holds over thirty five prizes for academic achievement, and has published several articles in learned international journals and is a regular speaker in national and international conferences on Globalization, International Commercial Arbitration, Private International Law, ADR and Online Dispute Resolution, E-commerce and IT Law.  Dr. Abdel Wahab is also a member of several professional and legal organizations including the Chartered Institute of Arbitrators, Society of Legal Scholars, Socio-Legal Studies Association, Association of Internet Researchers, the Internet Society, the International Law Association, the British Institute of International and Comparative Law, and the Egyptian Anti-Cyber Crime Association. His expertise lies in the field of: Private International Law, International Commercial Arbitration (especially in information technology and construction disputes), Online Dispute Resolution, Data Protection, E-Commerce and IT Law.

 

Published October 2006

 

Table of Contents

Introduction

The Egyptian Legal System

The Executive Power

                  The President

                  Cabinet

The Prime Minister

Ministries

The Legislative Power: Parliament

                  People's Assembly

Jurisdiction

Bodies

Committees

Shura Council

Conditions of Candidature

Term of Membership and Activities

The Judicial Power

Court System

The Supreme Constitutional Court

Court of Cassation

Court of Appeal

Court of First Instance

Family Court

Egyptian State Lawsuits Authority

Public Prosecution

Administrative Courts (State Council)

Courts Jurisdiction

Arbitration

Enforcement of Judgments and Appeal

Enforcement of Arbitral Awards

Primary materials

Political Parties

Major Parties

Minor Parties

Governorates

Official Websites

Inter-Government Organizations

Law Faculties (Public Universities)

Important Libraries

Legal Guides

 

Introduction

The Arab Republic of Egypt (Egypt) lies in the northeastern part of Africa. Whilst most of the country lies in Africa, the eastern most part, the Sinai Peninsula, is considered part of Asia and is the only land bridge between the two continents.  Egypt is divided into two unequal parts by the Nile River, and its terrain is mostly desert except for the Valley and Delta of the Nile, the most extensive oasis on earth and one of the main centers of habitation in Egypt. Whilst Cairo is the largest city and the capital of Egypt, Alexandria remains the principal port of Egypt on the Mediterranean and the second biggest city. 

 

With an area of more than one million square kilometers (1001450 sq km), Egypt prides itself in having extensive borders: to the west is Libya, to the south is Sudan, to the northeast are Israel and the Gaza strip, to the north is Mediterranean Sea, and to the east is the Red Sea.

 

Egypt is the sixteenth most populous country in the world with a population of 78.8 million people (2006); not surprisingly most of the population is concentrated near the banks of the Nile River which amounts to about 40,000 sq km, leaving about 961450 sq km uninhabited. This is due to the fact that the land near the banks of the Nile is only arable agricultural land in Egypt. However, there are ongoing efforts of urban development and populating the desert in order to reduce the heavy concentration of the population along the Nile.     

 

Egypt actually has been a coherent political entity since 3200 B.C. and one of the first civilizations to develop irrigated agriculture, urban life, and large scale political structures.

 

On the muddy banks of the Nile, the oldest political and administrative systems were established when Egypt’s first central state was established. These systems have gone a long way and are now used in the institutions and modern administrative systems as well as the formulas of constitution, parliament, responsible government and judicial authority since the 19th century. At the present time, Egypt is making history again by creating a new phase of economic development and reform, ascertaining political and democratic authority and practices, enhancing freedoms and adhering to the rule of law, and respecting human rights. 

 

The Egyptian Legal System

The Egyptian legal system is built on the combination of Islamic (Shariah) law and Napoleonic Code, which was first introduced during Napoleon Bonaparte’s occupation of Egypt and the subsequent education and training of Egyptian jurists in France.

 

The Egyptian legal system, being considered as a civil law system, is based upon a well-established system of codified laws.  Egypt’s supreme law is its written constitution. With respect to transactions between natural persons or legal entities, the most important legislation is the Egyptian Civil Code of 1948 (the “ECC”) which remains the main source of legal rules applicable to contracts. Much of the ECC is based upon the French Civil Code and, to a lesser extent, upon various other European codes and upon Islamic (Shariah) law (especially in the context of personal status).

 

Despite the non-existence of an established system of legally (de jure) binding precedents, previous judicial decisions do have persuasive authority. Courts are morally and practically bound (de facto binding effect) by the principles and precedents of the Court of Cassation (for civil, commercial, and criminal matters) and the Supreme Administrative Court (for administrative and other public law matters).

 

It is worth noting that the classical dichotomy of public and private law has resulted in the crystallization of a separate set of legal rules applicable to transactions involving the State (or any of its institutions, subsidiaries, or state-owned enterprises) acting as a sovereign power. This entailed the establishment of the Egyptian Council of State (Conseil d'Etat), which are administrative courts vested with the power to decide over administrative disputes pertaining to administrative contracts and administrative decrees issued by government officials. These courts apply administrative legal rules, which are not entirely codified, and hence the scope of judicial discretion, in so far as no applicable legislative rule exists, is ample in light of the established precedents laid by the supreme courts.

 

The Executive Power

The President

The President of Egypt is the Head of the State, and he is also, under the Egyptian Constitution, the Supreme Commander of the Armed Forces and Head of the Executive Authority (the Egyptian Cabinet).

 

Requirements to Hold Office

Article 75 of the Egyptian Constitution clearly states that a President of Egypt must meet certain requirements. First, he must be an Egyptian national, born to Egyptian parents and enjoys both political and civil rights. Moreover, his age should not be less than 40 calendar years.  

 

Term(s) of Office

According to the Constitution, after being elected by the qualified special majority of the Parliament, the President serves six consecutive calendar years form the date the results of the plebiscite are announced. Once his term ends, he may be re-elected for other successive terms, as the Constitution did not state any limit to the number of terms a president may serve.

 

Powers

Under the system created by the 1980 constitutional amendments, the President, being the head of the Executive Authority, names the Prime Minister, who chooses the Ministers and manages the day-to-day affairs including the economy. 

 

Cabinet

As the chief executive body of Egypt, the Cabinet consists of the Prime Minister and the cabinet ministers. In addition to its management of the daily affairs and setting strategies for development and reform in all areas, it has a role in shaping the agenda of the houses of Parliament by proposing Laws to Parliament, as well as amendments during parliamentary meetings; it may also make use of procedures to speed up parliamentary deliberations.

 

Articles (135) and (156) of the Constitution clearly define the legal capacity of the Cabinet as follows:  

  • To assist the Head of State in the making of general policies.
  • To implement such policies in the various fields.
  • To issue and monitor the implementation of administrative and executive decrees according to law.
  • To draft the State General Plan.
  • To draft the State General Budget.
  • To seal loan agreements and grants in accordance with the articles of the Constitution.
  • To follow up on the execution of laws, and to protect State security, rights and interests.

 

Traditionally, the Cabinet comprises:

 

  • The Prime Minister
  • Ministers
  • Ministers of State, who have considerably more transient portfolios since positions may be created and dissolved in reaction to a shift in government priorities or a change in the specific qualifications of candidates without altering the departmental structure. The Ministers of State have specific tasks or agencies that they most oversee, e.g. the Ministry of State for Environmental Affairs, Ministry of State for the Peoples’ Assembly, and the Ministry of State for Administrative Development.
  • Ministers without portfolio, ministers who are not in charge of particular departments such as the Chief of the Egyptian Intelligence Services.
  • Chairmen of Departments, who are men/women that head important departments which do not fall under the jurisdiction of any of the ministers. They answer directly to the Prime Minister, such as the Chairman of Suez Canal Authority, Sports Authority, and Youth Authority.
  • Ministers-Delegate, who have been delegated duties by the ministers to assist them in some areas of their departments. They rarely are asked or invited to attend cabinet meetings.

 

Ministries

 

  • Ministry of Agriculture and Land Reclamation
    • The Central Laboratory for Agricultural Expert Systems
  • Ministry of Defense and Military Production
  • Ministry of Information
  • Ministry of Justice
  • Ministry of Culture
    • The General Organization for Books and National Documentary
    • Egyptian Museum
    • Mubarak Public Library
  • Ministry of Education
    • General Authority for Educational buildings
    • E-Learning
  • Ministry of Foreign Affairs
  • Ministry of Trade and Industry
    • Egyptian Geological Survey and Mining Authority
    • Small and Medium Enterprises in Egypt
    • Egyptian Export Promotion Center
    • Egyptian International Trade Point
  • Ministry of State for Legal and Parliamentary Councils
  • Ministry of Tourism
    • Tourism Promotion Agency
    • Cairo International Conference Center
  • Ministry of State for Administrative Development
  • Ministry of Housing, Utilities, and Urban Communities
    • New Urban Communities Authority
    • Housing and Building research Center
    • Real Estate finance
  • Ministry of Manpower and Immigration
  • Ministry of Awqaf (Religious Trust)
    • Fatwa Council
    • Supreme council for Islamic affairs
    • Emigration Sector
  • Ministry of Higher Education and Scientific Research
    • Supreme Council for Universities
    • National Authority for Remote Sensing and Space Sciences
    • National Committee for Education Science and Culture
    • Academy of Scientific Research and Technology
    • Academy of the Arabic Language
    • National Research Centre
  • Ministry of Water Resources and Irrigation
  • Ministry of Interior
    • Civil State Organization
  • Ministry of Local Development
  • Ministry of Social Solidarity
  • Ministry of Investment
  • Ministry of Finance         
    • Customs Authority
    • Sales Tax Authority 
    • Egyptian Income Tax Authority 
  • Ministry of Communication and Information Technology 
    • Information Technology Industry Development Agency
    • National Postal Organization 
    • National Telecommunications Regulatory Authority 
    • Software Engineering Competence Center 
    • Center for Documentation of Cultural and Natural Heritage  
    • Smart Village 
    • Communication and Information Technology Industry Portal (CIT Egypt)  
    • Eternal Egypt 
    • Kenana Online  
  • Ministry of Petroleum 
    • Petroleum Research Center 
  • Ministry of Electricity and Energy 
  • Ministry of State for Environmental Affairs 
  • Ministry of Health and Population
    • General Organization for Teaching Hospitals and Institutes 
  • Ministry of Civil Aviation 
    • Cairo International Airport 
  • Ministry of Transportation        
    • National Authority for Tunnels
    • Maritime Transport Sector 
    • Egyptian Maritime Data Bank
  • Ministry of State for Economic Development
  • Ministry of International Cooperation

 

The Legislative Power: Parliament

The Parliament of Egypt is geographically located in Cairo. As the legislative authority, it has the power to enact laws, approve general policy of the State, the general plan for economic and social development and the general budget of the State, supervise the work of the government, ratify international conventions, and the power to vote to impeach the President of the Republic or replace the government and its Prime Minister in a vote of no-confidence.

 

The Parliament is a bicameral legislature which means it has two chambers or legislative houses. The present-day Constitution states the Parliaments two chambers be the following:

 

 

Every year, the Parliament meet for one nine-month session, but under special conditions the President may call another session. It is argued that the Parliament’s powers have increased since 1980’s Amendments of the Constitution.

 

People’s Assembly

The People’s Assembly under the new Constitution was founded in 1971 as a result of the adoption of the new Constitution. It is considered to be the lower house of the two, though it has a greater number of deputies, 454 deputies to be precise, 444 of them are directly elected, while the remaining ten are appointed by the President. Farmers and Workers make up half of the assembly since the Constitution invokes that there be many seats open for them, one per each two seat constituency. The Assembly sits for a five years term but can be dissolved earlier by the President.

 

Jurisdiction and Competence

Competences of the People’s Assembly are as follows:

 

Legislation

It is the main competence of the Assembly; it includes the right of the President or any Parliamentarian to propose draft laws which are then imputed to an ad hoc committee (an informal committee) of the Assembly to be examined and reported thereon.

 

The convocation, the formal gathering, of the People’s Assembly is valid only when majority of the members attend. Once the majority has been achieved, then the voting process begins on article by article of draft laws, and whatever the majority has voted on, then the decision is made.

 

The President’s power is demonstrated again, by his promulgate and/or objection to some laws. He can send back the draft law if he disagrees with it, even if it was approved by the People’s Assembly. He has a time period of thirty days to return the draft law after he informs the House.

 

In such a case in which the draft law is not returned in the assigned time, it is endorsed as a law and promulgated. But if it is returned within the time period, then the People’s Assembly may endorse it for the second time by a majority vote of two-thirds. In that case, it is also considered a law and promulgated. 

 

In some exceptional cases the Constitution gives the President the right to issue decisions or decrees which have the force of law, but it also needs authorization from the People’s Assembly.

 

On a different note, legislations (statutes) constitute the main source of legal rules. Codified statutory rules rank below the Constitution and international conventions. However, they rank higher than executive regulations, decrees, internal regulations, custom, and general principles of law. According to the 1980 amendment of the Constitution, Islamic Law (Sharia) became the principal source of legislative rules.[1] Such wording simply implies that any new law that is being enacted or considered for enactment should not be in contravention of any prevailing principles of Islamic Law (Sharia). Nevertheless, whilst all statutes regulating personal status issues (such as inheritance, marriage, divorce, alimony etc…) are derived from Islamic norms, penal law rules as codified in the Penal Code are entirely western non-religious oriented rules. It is argued that the 1980 amendment operates with respect to post 1980 legislations and does not have a retroactive effect. Accordingly, any legal rules, which are inconsistent with general principles of Islamic Law (Sharia), that have been enacted prior to 1980 remain in full force and effect (such as penal law rules), unless abolished or replaced by new laws.

 

It is worth noting that Egypt has enacted a number of new statutes to respond to contemporary standards of global economic and business reform including: Investment Law, Anti-Money Laundering Law, Intellectual Property Rights Law, Competition Law, Consumer Protection Law, Electronic Signatures Law, Banking Law, Taxation Law etc.[2]

 

Approval of Plan and Budget

The People’s Assembly has one of the most important capacities in the State, which is to approve of the General State budget, as the Constitution specifically states that the general plan of economic and social development should be approved by the People’s Assembly, moreover, the law specifies that it also plans the drafting and presentation of the General State Budget. 

 

Drafting the Budget is a serious matter and must be presented to the Assembly at least two months prior to the beginning of the fiscal year and voted upon. The process of voting on the budget is taken on bracket by bracket, and once it gets majority approval, it becomes official.

 

The approval of the People’s Assembly is crucial before any monetary transaction may occur.

 

The final account of the State Budget should be presented to the People’s Assembly to be voted on chapter by chapter, then issued by law.

 

On a different note, with respect to taxation, the Constitution states taxes or duties may not be levied, charged, amended or abrogated except by virtue of a statute. Accordingly, individuals or legal entities are not obliged to pay any taxes or duties except those provided under the law.

 

Monitoring

The Constitution upholds the concept of separation of powers; hence balances the powers of the three main authorities (Executive, Parliament, and the Judiciary). Within this scheme, the Parliament monitors the actions of Executive Authority through many mechanisms and instruments, and in order to fulfill such monitoring role, members of the People’s Assembly enjoy parliamentary immunity.      

 

The President of the Republic is vulnerable to criminal accusation and by the People’s Assembly upon proposition by at least one third of Assembly members. The same percentage may issue the indictment bill.

 

Moreover, each and every member of the People’s Assembly have the right to question and cross-examine the Prime Minister or one of his Deputies in any matter within their competence (this right is enshrined in the Constitution), and they must answer the questions of the members.    

 

The Constitution also stresses that ministers shall be accountable before the People’s Assembly for the State Policy. Just like any ordinary person, each minister shall be held accountable for his actions that are stated in his portfolio. Thus, ministers could be subject to a vote of confidence, which could result in their dismissal or disqualification.

 

Though the People’s Assembly cannot disqualify the Prime Minister, they can dismiss or disqualify a deputy of the Prime Minister, a Minister, or a Deputy Minister. However, this motion cannot be presented expect after a cross-examination and upon recommendation of at least ten Assembly members.

 

Bodies

It is necessary for the People’s Assembly to have specialized factions studying and drawing up issues looked into by the Assembly or the issues related to the Assembly. These factions are seven in number and are as follows: 

 

  • The People’s Assembly Speaker
  • The PA bureau
  • The General Committee
  • The Evaluation Committee
  • The Specific Committees
  • The Specialized and Joint Committee
  • The parliamentary organ

 

Committees

There are 18 specialized committees of the People’s Assembly helping exercise its legislative and monitoring duties:

 

  • The Constitutional and Legislative Affairs Committee;
  • The Plan and Budget Committee;
  • The Economic Affairs Committee;
  • The Foreign Relations Committee;
  • The Arab Affairs Committee;
  • The Defence, National Security and Mobilization Committee;
  • The Proposals and Complaints Committee;
  • The Manpower Committee;
  • The Industry and Energy Committee;
  • The Agriculture and Irrigation Committee;
  • The Education and Scientific Research Committee;
  • The Religious, Social and Religious Endowments Committee;
  • The Culture, Information and Tourism Committee;
  • The Health and Environment Affairs Committee;
  • The Transportation and Telecommunications Committee;
  • The Housing, Public Utilities and Reconstruction Committee;
  • The Local Government and Public Organizations Committee; and the Youth Committee

 

Shura Council

The Arabic word ‘shura’ means consultation; in English it is roughly translated as “The Consultative Council”. Other than being a Consultative Council, it is also the Upper house of Egyptian Parliament and is composed of 264 members, 174 of which are directly elected and 88 appointed by the President of Republic and maybe replaced at his discretion.  The Shura’s legislative power is fairly limited in comparison to the People’s Assembly, and usually in debates on certain matters the People’s Assembly has the upper hand and the prevailing view.      

 

Conditions of Candidature

In accordance with the Law, any candidate wishing to be elected to the Shura Council should meet the following conditions:

 

  • Hold the Egyptian nationality as well as being the son of an Egyptian national.
  • Be not less than 35 years old upon election or nomination.
  • Have completed military service or be exempted therefrom.

 

The Shura Council member is elected by the absolute majority of valid votes cast in the elections.

 

Term of Membership and Activities 

The term membership of the Shura Council is six years. However, renewed election and appointment of 50% of the total number of members is required every three years, and it is always possible to re-elect or re-appoint those members whose membership has expired.

The Constitution has provided many guarantees whereby the Council is able to carry out its tasks and activities.

 

The most prominent are:

 

  • The Council may not be dissolved except by a Presidential decree and only in case of necessity.
  • Members of the Council have parliamentary immunity.

 

As previously stated, pursuant to Article (1) of Law No.120 of the Year 1980 as amended by Laws No.10 of the Year 1989 and 8 of the Year 1995, the Shura Council must be made up of 264 members, two thirds of the council is elected by a direct ballot, and half of the Council must be farmers or workers, the remaining third (88) is appointed by the President of the Republic.

 

As explained earlier, the powers of the Shura Council are not as extensive or effective as the People’s Assembly, its jurisdiction as provided by Articles (194) and (195) of the Constitution covers the studying and proposing of what is deemed necessary to preserve the principles of the July 23rd, 1952 revolution and the May 15th, 1971 Corrective Revolution. These principles are to consolidate national unity and social peace, to protect the Alliance of the people’s working force and socialist gains as well as the basic constituents of the society, its supreme values, its rights, public freedoms and duties, and strengthening the scope of the democratic system.

 

Article (195) of the Constitution provides for the Council to be consulted on the following:

  • Proposals for the amendment of one or more Articles of the Constitution.
  • Constitutional amendment bills.
  • Drafts, and general plans for social and economic development.
  • All treaties affecting Egypt’s territorial integrity or sovereignty.
  • Bills referred to the Council by the President of the Republic.
  • All matters relating to the state’s general policy or international issues referred to the Shura Council by the President of the Republic.

 

The Judicial Power

Court System

As the third and independent authority of the State, the Egyptian Judiciary is comprised of secular and religious courts, administrative, non-administrative courts and a Supreme Constitutional Court, and penal courts, civil and commercial courts, personal status and family courts, national security courts, labour courts, military courts, as well as other specialized courts or circuits.

The Egyptian Court system is composed of a number of tiers: Courts of First Instance, Court of Appeal, and the Court of Cassation at the apex of the judiciary. The classical dichotomy of public and private law has resulted in the establishment of the Council of State (Conseil d'Etat), which are administrative courts vested with the power to decide over administrative disputes pertaining to administrative contracts and administrative decrees issued by government officials and ministries. The Supreme Constitutional Court was established in 1969 and has exclusive jurisdiction to decide questions regarding the constitutionality of laws and regulations as well as negative and positive conflict of jurisdiction.

Generally, the Egyptian judicial system is based on French legal concepts and methods. Judges are familiar with civil law systems’ concepts, and despite the huge case backlog and time-consuming proceedings, the principles of the due process and judicial review are inherently cherished and respected. Accessibility to justice is an indispensable principle of the Egyptian legal system. Judges are generally independent from the State and enjoy judicial immunity; hence they cannot be dismissed or sacked by the Executive Authority. However, due to the huge amount of cases before the courts, there exists a heavy case backlog, which adversely affects the efficiency of the court system and the judiciary as a whole. Apart from the heavy case backlog which might cause some delay and inconvenience, judges are competent, able, and impartial, which ensures equality of the parties and justice. Furthermore, fees to administer judicial proceedings are not very high, and judicial aid through appointing lawyers as representatives for those who are unable to appoint a lawyer is generally available.

 

The Supreme Constitutional Court

The Supreme Constitutional Court is an independent body in the Arab Republic of Egypt. It is currently located in the Cairo suburb of Maadi.

 

The Court is undeniably the highest judicial power in Egypt. By virtue Article (25) of the Supreme Constitutional Court’s Law No.48 of the Year 1979, this Court is empowered to:

 

·       Determine the constitutionality of the laws and regulations.

·       Decide on jurisdiction disputes between judicial bodies or authorities of judicial competence.

·       Decide on the disputes that might take place as a result of enforcing two final contradictory rulings issued by two different judicial entities.

·       Interpret the laws issued by the Legislative Authority and the decrees issued by the Head of the State in case of any divergence with respect to their implementation.

 

Court of Cassation

In 1931, the Court of Cassation was established to create a central tool to provide exclusive and uniform interpretation and application of the law. The court of Cassation is at the apex of the judicial hierarchy in Egypt and is based in Cairo.

 

The Court of Cassation’s jurisdiction simply includes consideration of challenges brought to it by either adversary or by public prosecution; it also includes the examination of lawsuits that arose from a judge’s action. When such a dilemma occurs, the courts assume the role as a court of merit rather a court of law.

 

Another function of the court is to give rulings on requests of reparations for all violated verdicts. The Court issues annual collections on approved judicial principles in the title “Rulings and Principles of the Court of Cassation”.

 

Court of Appeal

There exist around seven Courts of Appeal in Egypt in major cities. These are second degree courts that review the awards of the courts of first instance. Their review covers questions of fact as well as questions of law. Judges of sufficient experience and seniority sit as judges in the Courts of Appeal.

 

Appeals from rulings rendered by the Courts of First Instance should be made within specific time frames, otherwise an appeal will be rejected, as such time-limits are mandatory.

 

Judgments rendered by a Court of Appeal are only open to challenge before the Court of Cassation, and usually on points of law or lack or inconsistency of reasoning.

 

Court of First Instance

The Courts of First Instance are first degree courts, which have the ability to consider lawsuits filed before them only if they fall under their jurisdiction and their rulings are, generally, subject to appeal.

 

Judges sitting in Courts of First Instance are relatively young and rank below the judges of the Courts of Appeal and the Court of Cassation in terms of experience and seniority.

 

Family Court

This court was founded in 2004 to provide a specialized judicial tool for family disputes. This court aims at providing psychological peace and comfort for the children caught in the middle of disputes relating to tutelage, divorce, alimony and custody. Such court also aims at sustaining an amicable settlement for family problems through specialized and professional guidance agencies.

 

Egyptian State Lawsuits Authority

The Egyptian State Lawsuits Authority is an Egyptian judicial institution that was established in 1874, nine years before the Egyptian national courts were established in 1883.

 

Despite being legally stigmatized as an independent judicial institution, the Authority does not perform a truly judicial function; its role is confined to representing the State before national and international courts and arbitral tribunals.

 

The law states that the Egyptian Lawsuits Authority has the power to plead on behalf of the State. When it comes to the organizational structure of the Egyptian Lawsuits Authority it is divided into seven parts each capable to represent the state in the areas of its jurisdiction. Each department is headed by a vice president and only the Department of Foreign Disputes is headed by the President. 

 

Public Prosecution

The Public Prosecution has two major functions, which are: (a) to file criminal actions when acting as public prosecutors before a criminal court; and (b) the right to initiate actions even if the plaintiff has relinquished his right to do so.

 

Public prosecutors investigate crimes, visit crimes’ scenes, question the accused, issue search warrants, order the imprisonment of the accused on the account of a crime for a period of fifteen days prior to trial or prosecution.

 

Moreover, joining the public prosecution is the path to becoming a judge in the Court of First Instance, the Court of Appeal, and the Court of Cassation. Nevertheless, some members of the Public Prosecution remain within the latter and get promoted to District Attorneys, Attorney Generals, and potentially qualify for the post of the Head of the Public Prosecution.

 

Administrative Courts (State Council)

As previously mentioned, any administrative disputes in which any administrative body is party is a matter handled by the Administrative Courts and falls under its jurisdiction.

 

Administrative Courts do have a separate structure, where the Supreme Administrative Court sits at the apex of such structure. There are also departments for opinions and legislation which advises public entities on diverse aspects of public law such as administrative contracts, tenders, ministerial decrees etc.

 

In any governmental authority or agency there exists an in-house member of the State Council (in addition to a department for legal affairs) whose opinion should be sought with respect to any administrative law matter.   

 

Courts Jurisdiction

With respect to jurisdiction, it is necessary to distinguish between national jurisdiction in pure domestic cases and international jurisdiction regarding disputes involving a foreign element. A brief overview of both seems to be in order.

 

National or domestic jurisdiction is shared between two main judicial bodies:

(a) General courts; and (b) Administrative courts (State Council).

 

Whilst courts of general jurisdiction are concerned with the settlement of civil, criminal, commercial and personal status matters, administrative courts are concerned with the settlement of administrative or public law matters governed by the jus imperii.

 

The criteria for establishing general jurisdiction could be based on the value of the dispute, nature of the dispute, or territorial jurisdiction of the court.

 

With respect to the value of the dispute, general jurisdiction is divided between:  

(1)       Trial courts:  dealing with disputes of not more than L.E. 10,000 (ten thousand Egyptian pounds).

(2)       Higher courts (such as the Court of First Instance): dealing with disputes of not less than L.E. 10,000 (ten thousand Egyptian pounds).

 

With respect to territorial competence, courts of general jurisdiction are divided according to cities and suburbs. For example, there are Giza courts, Cairo courts, Alexandria courts, Mansoura courts, etc… within each city there might be a number of courts such as North Giza Court of First Instance and South Giza Court of First Instance.

 

As for the Court of Appeals, there is one in Cairo, one in Alexandria, one in Tanta, one in Ismaileya, one in Suez, one in Mansoura, and one in Kena.

 

As for the Court of Cassation there is only one in whole country and it is located in Cairo.

 

With respect to international jurisdiction, Egyptian courts assume jurisdiction regarding international commercial disputes involving a foreign element on the basis of any of the following criteria:

(a) Cases in which the defendant is Egyptian unless the dispute pertains to immovables located in a foreign State; (b) Cases in which the defendant, despite being a foreign national, is either domiciled or resident in Egypt unless the dispute pertains to immovables located in a foreign State; (c) Cases involving property (movables or immovables) located in Egypt even though the defendant is a foreign national who is not domiciled or resident in Egypt; (d) Cases pertaining to an obligation created, performed, or should have been performed in Egypt; (e) Cases pertinent to a bankruptcy or insolvency declared in Egypt; (f) Cases in which the defendant voluntarily submits to the jurisdiction of Egyptian courts (full effect to the principle of party autonomy); (g) Claims, counterclaims, defences, incidental questions, other issues which are closely connected to cases filed before Egyptian courts; (h) Cases involving interim and provisional measures to be executed in Egypt.

 

The above-mentioned principles represent the diverse criteria for establishing jurisdiction of Egyptian courts both on national and international levels.

 

With respect to the effect of choice of law and exclusive jurisdiction clauses in international contracts, it should be noted that Egyptian law, like most legal systems, upholds the principle of party autonomy to maximum possible extent. Thus, parties to a contract are free to agree on an applicable law and exclusive jurisdiction and their agreement will be upheld by courts in so far as their agreement does not violate public policy considerations or fundamental mandatory norms.

 

Arbitration

Parallel to court litigation, arbitration has established itself as a prominent method for resolving business, commercial, and investment disputes. A new Arbitration Law No.27 of the Year 1994 was enacted and it governs both domestic and international arbitration. Courts are increasingly mitigating any form of hostility towards arbitration as an out-of-court dispute resolution system. Judges have generally accepted and supported arbitral proceedings and an arbitral award, by virtue of the new Arbitration Law, is never reviewed on the merits.

 

Thus, if the parties to a contract agree on an arbitration clause or agreement in disputes capable of settlement by arbitration (the criteria for arbitrability under Egyptian Law being the possibility of settlement) Egyptian courts will decline jurisdiction to review the subject matter of the dispute. However, an arbitral award rendered may only be subject to nullity proceedings in Egypt if: (a) the Seat of Arbitration is in Egypt or (b) the parties have agreed, if the Seat is in a different State, that the law applicable to the proceedings is the Egyptian Arbitration Law No.27/1994. Such nullity action, may be brought for a number of exclusive grounds; mainly procedural.

 

Enforcement of Judgments and Appeal

With respect to enforcement of judgments and awards, as a general rule, enforcement is possible when an award is final, which is the case for awards rendered by the court of Appeal or final arbitral awards. However, judgments and awards rendered by the Court of First Instance may be enforceable by depositing a security.

 

Enforcement of the judgment may entail seizure of property or assets as follows: (a) conservatory seizure over movables or immovable (this is an interim or provisional measure of protection that may be ordered by the court to protect the interest of creditors); (b) seizure with a view to sell the seized property or assets (applicable to both movable and immovable); and (c) garnishment effected under the hands of third parties and seizure of employment wages. However, pursuant to Egyptian law, certain rights, assets or property may not be seized such as: industrial property rights, supplementary rights in rem such as mortgages and concessions etc…, rights of servitude, current accounts, funds or assets needed for public utilities, saving funds, and investment certificates.

 

On a different note, creditors may also induce voluntary enforcement of judgment by threatening to institute bankruptcy or liquidation proceedings against the debtor. Judgments rendered by the Court of First Instance are subject to appeal by the losing or respondent party, and judgments rendered by the Court of Appeal are equally subject to challenge before the Court of Cassation, whose review of the judgment does not hinder or impede enforcement per se.

 

With respect to the right of appeal, the party who lost his case before the Court of First Instance is entitled to appeal the judgment before the Court of Appeal, provided that the prescribed period of appeal is observed, which is usually 40 days as a general principle, unless a specific provision indicates otherwise.

 

With respect to recognition and enforcement of foreign judgments, Egyptian courts will generally recognize and enforce foreign judgments if the following conditions are satisfied: (a) Egyptian courts do not have jurisdiction over the dispute, and the foreign court which rendered the judgment enjoy jurisdiction pursuant to its rules on international jurisdiction; (b) the parties have been notified of the proceedings and validly represented before the competent court; (c) the judgment or award is final and binding pursuant to the rules prevailing under the law of the foreign court; and (d) the foreign judgment is not in conflict with a prior award or judgment rendered by Egyptian courts and is not in contravention of the prevailing public policy considerations.

 

If the foreign award or judgment satisfies the above-mentioned conditions, a request for enforcement is submitted to the court whose jurisdiction encompasses the place of enforcement. Such request is submitted in accordance with the general rules for filing cases, and the competent Egyptian court will then render its exequatur without reviewing the foreign judgment on its merits.

 

The prescription period with respect to enforcement requests and actual enforcement is 15 years in accordance with the general rules on prescription under the Civil Code.

 

Enforcement of Arbitral Awards

With respect to enforcement of foreign arbitral awards, a request for enforcement should be submitted to the competent court, which, in the case of international commercial arbitration, is the Court of Appeal. The request should be accompanied by the original text of the award or a signed copy thereof, a copy of the arbitration agreement, and an Arabic translation of the award ratified by an authorized entity if the award is rendered in a foreign language, and a copy of the minutes verifying submission of the award in the registry of the competent court.

 

Furthermore, a request for enforcement of an arbitral award will not be accepted unless the period for filing a nullity action has lapsed in cases where a nullity action is possible.[3]

 

The conditions for enforcement of arbitral awards are more relaxed than those of foreign judgments due to the impact of the New York Convention on the Recognition and Enforcement of Foreign Arbitral Awards (1958) to which Egypt is a signatory, and the provisions of the Egyptian Arbitration Law No.27/1994. The conditions of enforcement are: (a) the inexistence of a prior Egyptian award on the same issue; (b) absence of any contravention to Egyptian public policy considerations; and (c) valid notification of the arbitral award.

 

At the stage of recognition or enforcement, arbitral awards, like foreign judgments, are not reviewed on their merits.

Primary Materials

Egyptian Codes (Statutes) are published in Arabic in the Official Gazette (a special journal dedicated for publishing Statutes only) available in Arabic in book format. Prime Minister's and Minister's Decrees are published in the Egyptian Gazette, which is available in Arabic in book format. However, an electronic version of all such statutes, decrees, and regulations should be available in Arabic on the Tashreaat website.

 

LADIS or Tashreaat publishes all laws, decrees, etc. This is in addition to court rulings, some legal articles mainly in Arabic but there are some materials in English.  Tashreaat also has specialized pages for human rights, IPRs, Constitutions of Arab countries. They offer legal opinions on diverse aspects of law, and they publish a monthly legal bulletin. (Generally it is a good website to subscribe to).

 

Unlike common law countries we do not have dedicated periodicals or reports where cases and court judgments are published. Moreover, not all court rulings are published. However, the Court of Cassation Judgments, State Council Judgments, and Constitutional Court Judgments are published in book format in what we call "Collection of Awards". These are organized in chronological order by Judicial Years. Nowadays soft copies of such rulings are available on CDs and some databases such as Tashreaat. However, databases are not entirely complete, so a manual search through the "Collection of Awards" is still important.

 

It is worth noting that the Constitutional Court does have a website available in Arabic, English and French, where you can view some useful information, documents and even search for Awards rendered by the Court.

 

Egypt’s information portal, the Information and Decision Support Center for the Cabinet (IDSC), provides information on a wide variety of things.  The website provides studies, reports, laws, statistics, working papers, statistics, and periodicals (daily, weekly, monthly, quarterly, and annually). This is available free of charge.  However, not all information is available in English. This website is not dedicated to legal information; it provides economic, scientific, industrial, commercial, social, historical, geographical, political information. It also offers interactive services.

 

The Middle East Library for Economic Services is the website of the Middle East Library.

 

The website of the Legal Arab Information Network is another example of a subscription-based database that contains information on Arab laws, agreements, cases, researches etc.

 

Political Parties

Egypt, according to its Constitution, has a multiparty system, however in recent years the ruling and prevalent party is the National Democratic Party. However, opposition parties do exist but are not, hitherto, as strong or powerful as the former.

 

Law No.40 of the Year 1977 regulates the formation of political parties in Egypt; the main objective of this Law is to prohibit the formation of religious-based political parties to maintain a secular political environment. In recent years, there has been growing political pressure and trends towards the formation of new parties that could effectively contribute to the socio-political agenda of Egypt.  

 

Major Parties

  • National Democratic Party ('Al'Hizb Al Watani Al Democrati')
  • New Wafd Party (Hizb al-Wafd-al-Jadid)
  • Progressive National Unionist Party (Hizb al Tagammo' al Watani al Taqadommi al Wahdwawi') - Leftist party
  • Arab Democratic Nasserist Party or Nasserist Party
  • Liberal Party (Hizb al-Ahrar)
  • Tomorrow Party (Hizb al-Ghad)

 

Minor Parties

  • The Democratic Unionist Party (Hizb al-Itahadi al-democrati)
  • Umma Party (Hizb al-Umma)
  • National Conciliation Party (Hizb al-Wifak)
  • Constitutional Party (al-Hizb al-distouri)
  • Egyptian Arab Socialist Party (Hizb Misr al-arabi al-ishtaraki)
  • Democratic Peace Party
  • Egyptian Greens
  • Solidarity Party (Hizb Al Takaful )
  • Egypt 2000 Party
  • Democratic Generation (El-Geel) Party
  • Misr El-Fatah (Young Egypt) Party
  • The Social Justice Party
  • Egypt Youth Party 

 

Governorates

Egypt is divided into 27 governorates (muhafazah), sorted by the transliterated Arabic name:

  • Ad Daqahliyah (Dakahleya)
  • Al Bahr al Ahmar (Red Sea)
  • Al Buhayrah (Beheira)
  • Al Fayyum (Fayum) 
  • Al Gharbiyah (Gharbeya)
  • Al Iskandariyah (Alexandria)
  • Al Isma'iliyah (Ismailia)
  • Al Jizah (Giza)
  • Al Minufiyah (Menufeya) 
  • Al Minya (Minya)
  • Al Qahirah (Cairo) 
  • Al Qalyubiyah (Kalyubeya)
  • Al Uqsur (Luxor) 
  • Al Wadi al Jadid (New Valley)
  • Ash Sharqiyah (Sharkeya) 
  • As Suways (Suez)
  • Aswan
  • Asyut
  • Bani Suwayf (Beni Suef) 
  • Bur Sa'id (Port Saïd)
  • Dimyat (Damietta) 
  • Janub Sina' (South Sinai) 
  • Kafr ash Shaykh (Kafr el Sheikh)
  • Matruh
  • Qina
  • Shamal Sina' (North Sinai) 
  • Suhaj (Sohag)

 

Most governorates have a population density of more than 1000 per km².

 

Official Websites

 

Inter-Governmental Organizations

  • African Union (AU)
  • League of Arab States
  • Organization Internationale de la Francophonie (OIF)
  • Organization of Arab Petroleum Exporting Countries (OAPEC)
  • Common Market for Eastern and Southern Africa (COMESA)

 

Law Faculties (Public Universities)

·       Cairo University

·       Ain Shams University

·       Alexandria University

·       El Mansoura University  

·       Zaqaziq University  

·       El Menoufia University  

·       El Miniya University

·       Benha University

·       South Valley University

·       Helwan University

·       Tanta University  

·       Assiut University

·       Suez Canal University

·       Beni Suef University

 

Important Libraries

 

Legal Guides

 

 



[1] Prior to the 1980 amendment, Islamic Law (Sharia) was merely a source, amongst other sources, for legislative rules.

[2] An up-to-date comprehensive information on Laws and Regulations pertinent to economic, commercial, and business activities in Egypt could be found at: (1) The Egyptian Investment Portal (Economic Laws), (2) The Egyptian Investment Portal (other Laws and Regulations) where over 40 statutes could be downloaded or viewed online, and (3) The American Chamber of Commerce in Egypt has a very comprehensive website that provides up-to-date information on doing business in Egypt with useful information on all relevant statutes.

[3] That period is 90 days calculated from the date of notifying the award to the losing party.