Jump to the next navigation bar : Jump to the page contents
About Globalex

UPDATE: An Overview of the Egyptian Legal System and Legal Research

 

By Dr. Mohamed S. E. Abdel Wahab

Dr. Mohamed S. E. Abdel Wahab (MCIArb.), Licence en Droit -LLB (CAI), LL.M (CAI), MPhil (MAN), Ph.D (MAN), CIArb Dip. International Commercial Arbitration (Balliol College, Oxford University) is an Assistant Professor of Law at the Faculty of Law, Cairo University, Egypt, and Assistant Director of the English Section at the Faculty of Law (Cairo University). He has taught part-time on the LL.M, LL.B, and BA programs at Manchester and Manchester Metropolitan Universities in England. Dr. Abdel Wahab holds a number of visiting positions in Egypt, the UK, and the USA, where he teaches English Contract law, Introduction to Anglo-American Law, Comparative Law, International Arbitration and Conflict of Laws. Dr. Abdel Wahab is currently a Fellow of the National Centre for Technology and Dispute Resolution at the University of Massachusetts, Amherst, USA. Dr. Abdel Wahab is an Adjunct Professor of Law and International Commercial Arbitration (Indiana University, USA), and Faculty Coordinator for the Indiana University LL.M Program in Business and Comparative Law in Egypt.  Dr. Abdel Wahab is also a Founding Partner of Zulficar & Partners (Egypt), where he serves as the head of the Firm’s International Arbitration and Project Finance/PPP Groups.  Dr. Abdel Wahab is also the vice-president of the Cairo branch of the Chartered Institute of Arbitrators (CIArb) since 2005, Chair of the CIArb’s Technology Committee, and member of the CIArb’s Practice and Standards Committee, and Consultant to the World Bank.  Dr. Abdel Wahab regularly appears as counsel in highly complex and high value international commercial arbitration disputes, and regularly serves as arbitrator and expert in Ad-hoc and Institutional Arbitral Proceedings involving disputes across the commercial and investment spectrums. He is a listed arbitrator on numerous international roasters, and is a member of the United Nations Expert Group on Online Dispute Resolution. He is considered a leading international and regional expert on Online Dispute Resolution and one of the MENA region leading practitioners in International Commercial Arbitration, ADR, Information Technology Law, and Project Finance.  Dr. Abdel Wahab holds over fifty- five prizes for academic achievement, and is regularly published in learned international journals. He is a regular speaker in national and international conferences on International Commercial Arbitration, Private International Law, Online Dispute Resolution, Globalization, ADR and Ecommerce and IT Law.

Published October 2012
(Previously updated on November/December 2008)

See the Archive Version!

 

Table of Contents

1.     Introduction

2.     The Egyptian Legal System

3.     The Executive Power

3.1  The President

3.2  Cabinet

3.3  Ministries

4.     The Legislative Power: Parliament

4.1   People's Assembly

4.2  Jurisdiction

4.3  Bodies

4.4  Committees

5      Shura Council

5.1  Term of Membership and Activities

6      The Judicial Power

6.1  Court System

6.2  The Supreme Constitutional Court

6.3  Court of Cassation

6.4  Court of Appeal

6.5  Court of First Instance

6.6  Family Court

6.7  New Economic Courts

6.8  Egyptian State Lawsuits Authority

6.9  Public Prosecution

6.10        Administrative Courts (State Council)

7      Courts Jurisdiction

8      Arbitration

9      Enforcement of Judgments and Appeal

10    Enforcement of Arbitral Awards

11    Primary materials

12    Political Parties

13    Notable Parties

14    Governorates

15    Official Websites

16    Inter-Governmental Organizations

17    Law Faculties (Public Universities)

18    Important Libraries

19    Legal Guides

 

I.              Introduction

The Arab Republic of Egypt lies in the northeastern part of Africa. Whilst most of the country is located in Africa, the easternmost 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. While Cairo is the largest city and the capital of Egypt, Alexandria, the second largest city, remains the principal port of Egypt on the Mediterranean. 

 

With an area of more than one million square kilometers (1,001,450 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 approx. 85,000,000 people, according to the July 2011 Central Intelligence Agency World Factbook estimate. Unsurprisingly, most of the population is concentrated near the banks of the Nile River, which amounts to about 40,000 sq. km, leaving about 961,450 sq. km uninhabited. This is due to the fact that the land near the banks of the Nile is the only arable agricultural land in Egypt. However, there are ongoing efforts toward expansion of urban development and populating the desert in order to reduce the heavy concentration of the population along the Nile.     

 

Egypt has been a coherent political entity since 3200 B.C. and was 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 along with Egypt’s first central state. These systems have come a long way, and are now used in the modern institutions and administrative systems, and have also been used in the formulation of the 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. 

 

II.            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 in 1798 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) by virtue of Law No.112 of 1946 as amended by Law No. 9 of 1949, which consists of 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; hence, because often no applicable legislative rules exist, the scope of judicial discretion is ample in light of the established precedents laid by the supreme courts.

 

On January 25, 2011, the Egyptian revolution (the “Revolution”) took place and transmogrified the country’s political landscape, deposing the former regime led by the now defunct National Democratic Party, which has been in power for many years. Eighteen days after the Revolution had started, and specifically on February 11, 2011, Mohamed Hosni Mubarak has, in light of the Revolution’s demands, resigned and the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces (“SCAF”) was entrusted with running the State’s affairs until such time when power is transferred to a democratically elected President. The presidential elections took place in May and June 2012 and resulted in the election of Dr. Mohamed Morsi as the first Egyptian president to be democratically elected following the Revolution.

 

Prior to the election of Dr. Morsi and following the Revolution,  SCAF has issued a constitutional declaration on February 13, 2011 (“Declaration 1”), whereby, inter alia, the following resolutions were taken:

 

  1. the Egyptian Constitution of 1971 was suspended,
  2. the SCAF shall be temporarily entrusted with running the State affairs for a period of six months or until the elections of the Parliament, Shura Council and President,
  3. dissolution of the then existing Parliament and Shura Council, and
  4. Constitution of a committee to amend some of the Constitution’s provisions.

 

A second constitutional declaration was issued by SCAF on March 30, 2011(“Declaration 2”) setting out the fundamentals of a temporary constitution (although not referred to as such), including the organization of the presidential elections, parliamentary elections and Shura Council elections.  Declaration 2 also organized in its sixtieth Article the mechanism for the drafting of a new constitution, where it states that the members of the Parliament and the Shura Council who are not appointed (i.e. who are elected) shall convene upon the invitation of SCAF to elect a constituent assembly composed of one hundred members to prepare a draft of a new constitution within a maximum period of six months from the date of its composition.  The said draft constitution shall then be presented to the people for public referendum within fifteen days, and shall enter into force from the date of the people’s approval in the referendum.  It is worth mentioning that Declaration 2 did not address the situation where the new draft constitution would be rejected in the referendum.   

 

By virtue of the supplementary constitutional declaration issued on June 17, 2012 (“Declaration 3”), it has been stipulated that SCAF shall assume the legislation authority until the election of the parliament and its exercise of its competencies. Declaration 3 further sets out that in the event of the existence of any obstacle hindering the constitution drafting committee from exercising its functions, SCAF shall have the right to appoint a new drafting committee. It is worth mentioning that Declaration 3 bestows on SCAF, the President, the Prime Minister, the Supreme Council for Judicial Entities or one fifth of the members of the drafting assembly the authority to submit a request to the said committee requesting the reconsideration of a provision which is believed to be in violation with the purposes or main principles of the Revolution and its principal goals or with the main principles of former Egyptian constitutions.

The Parliament had appointed the constitution drafting committee, which was later dissolved by virtue of a court judgment.  A new committee was formed by the Parliament and it is currently undertaking its drafting task. However, it is worth noting that Declaration 3 was revoked by the newly elected President on August 12, 2012, and the power to appoint a new drafting committee, in the event of existence of any obstacle hindering the constitution drafting committee from exercising its functions, is now vested with the President.

3. The Executive Power

3.1. The President

The President of Egypt is the Head of the State, and he was also, under the former Egyptian Constitution, the Supreme Commander of the Armed Forces and Head of the Executive Authority (the Egyptian Cabinet).  Hitherto, Declaration 2 does not give the President the same wide excessive authorities, where he/she is only stated to be the Head of the State and the Head of the National Defence Council. Following the revocation Declaration 3, it is expected that the President shall assume the customary powers normally afforded thereto under a presidential political system. It is also worth noting that on August 12, 2012, the President has appointed one new vice-president, who was a former vice-president of the Egyptian Court of Cassation.

 

Requirements to Hold Office

Article 75 of the former 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 enjoy both political and civil rights. Moreover, his age should not be less than 40 calendar years.  Declaration 2 sets out the same conditions, and adds that neither he/she nor his/her parents shall have acquired another nationality, other than the Egyptian nationality, and that he/she shall not have a foreign spouse.  

 

Term(s) of Office

According to the former Constitution, after being elected by the qualified special majority of the Parliament, the President serves six consecutive calendar years from the date the results of the plebiscite are announced. Once his term ends, he may be re-elected for other successive terms, as the former Constitution does not state any limit to the number of terms a president may serve.  Declaration 2, on the other hand, sets out a term of four calendar years that may only be renewed once for one successive term.

 

Powers

According to Declaration 2, the President appoints the Prime Minister, the Ministers and their delegates, appoints the appointed members of the People’s Assembly, calls the People’s Assembly and Shoura Councils to enter into normal session,  and issues laws or objects to them. The President further enjoys the right to represent the State domestically and abroad, pardon convicts and reduce the punishment thereof, and sign international treaties and agreements.

 

3.2. 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 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 former 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 prepare draft laws and decrees.
  • 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 old Constitution.
  • To follow up on the execution of laws, and to protect State security, rights and interests.

 

Declaration 2 sets out the legal capacity of the Cabinet as follows:

  • To assist the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces in the making of general policies, and to supervise their implementation in accordance with the laws and the presidential decrees.
  • To guide, liaise with and follow up on the Ministries, their affiliated entities, authorities and public institutions
  • To issue administrative and executive decrees in accordance with the laws, regulations and decrees, and to monitor their execution.
  • To prepare draft laws, regulations and decrees.
  • To draft the State General Budget.
  • To draft the State General Plan.
  • 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 consists of:

 

  • 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 must 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. The first category thereof answers directly to the President, such as the National Council for Women. The second category  answers 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.

 

3.3. Ministries

·       Ministry of Agriculture and Land Cultivation

·       Ministry of Education

  • Ministry of Foreign Affairs
  • Ministry of Industry and Trade
  • Ministry of State for the Parliamentary Councils and Legal Affairs Ministry of Tourism
  • Ministry of Housing and Urban Development
    • New Urban Communities Authority
    • Housing and Building National Research Center
    • Real Estate Market Place
  • Ministry of Manpower and Immigration
  • Ministry of  Religious Endowment (Awqaf)
    • Dar Al-Iftaa Al-Masriyyah
    • Supreme Council for Islamic Affairs
    • Emigration and Egyptians Abroad Sector
  • Ministry of Higher Education  
    • Egyptian Universities Network
    • National Committee for Education Science and Culture
    • Academy of the Arabic Language
  • Ministry of Scientific Research
  • Ministry of Water Resources and Irrigation
    • National Water Research Center
  • Ministry of Interior Affairs
  • Ministry of State for Local Development
  • Ministry of Supply and Social Affairs
  • Ministry of Insurance and Social Affairs
  • Ministry of Investment
  •  

    4. The Legislative Power: Parliament

    The Parliament of Egypt is 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 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. The  former Constitution and Declaration 2 state that the Parliament’s two chambers are the following:

     

    • The People’s Assembly
    • The Shura Council   

     

    Under the former Constitution, every year, the Parliament meets 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 to the Constitution. In any event, the constitutional committee is currently deliberating and drafting the constitutional provisions pertaining to Parliament.

     

    4.1. People’s Assembly

    The People’s Assembly was founded in 1971 as a result of the adoption of the old Constitution. It is considered to be the lower house of the two, though it has a greater number of deputies, 508 deputies to be precise. 498 are directly elected by the People, while the remaining ten are appointed by the President. Farmers and workers make up half of the assembly, as the Constitution requires that there be many seats open for them, specifically, one for each two- seat constituency. For the parliamentary elections of 2012, two thirds of the seats were elected by the party-list proportional system, while the other third was elected by means of individual candidacy. Declaration 2 leaves the determination of the number of members to the law, provided they are not less than 350 members, half of which are farmers and workers.  The President may appoint up to 10 members in the People’s Assembly. According to the former Constitution and Declaration 2, the Assembly sits for a five years term. However, it is worth mentioning that the Constitutional Court has recently rendered the People’s Assembly unconstitutional and has ordered the dissolution thereof.

    4.2. Jurisdiction and Duties

    Competences of the People’s Assembly are as follows:

    Legislation

    It is the main duty 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.

     

    Under the former Constitution, the convocation, or formal gathering, of the People’s Assembly is valid only when a majority of the members attends. Once a majority has been achieved, then the voting process begins on draft laws; decisions are made on the basis of majority rule.

     

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

     

    Under the former Constitution, in a case in which the draft law is not returned in the assigned time, it is endorsed as a law and promulgated. However, 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. 

     

    Declaration 2, being temporary, does not address these matters in depth. It has only set forth, that the President enjoys the right to object to laws, without providing for a regulatory regime in relation thereto.

     

    In some exceptional cases, the old Constitution gives the President the right to issue decisions or decrees which have the force of law, but which need no authorization from the People’s Assembly. For example, in the event the Parliament is not in session, the President may undertake immediate measures, which shall have the force of law. Furthermore, the Parliament may delegate the President to enact laws for a specified period of time and in relation to particular matters while specifying the principles of these laws. It is worth mentioning that this is not addressed in Declaration 2.

     

    In any event, the above provisions, and all those pertaining to the Parliament are currently being revisited and re-drafted by the currently constituted constitutional committee.

     

    On a different note, legislation (statutes) constitutes 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 former Constitution, Islamic Law (Sharia) became the principal source of legislative rules. [[1]] This was confirmed and restated under Declaration 2. 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, secular rules. It is argued that the 1980 amendment operates only with respect to post-1980 legislation 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, Public Private Partnership (PPP) Law, Arbitration 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 former Constitution and Declaration 2 specifically state that the general plan of economic and social development should be approved by the People’s Assembly. 

     

    Under the former Constitution, drafting the Budget is a serious matter and must be presented to the Assembly by the Cabinet at least two months prior to the beginning of the fiscal year in order to be voted upon.

     

    On a different note, with respect to taxation, the former Constitution and Declaration 2 state that 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.

     

    In any event, all those pertaining to the Budget are equally being revisited and re-drafted by the currently constituted constitutional committee.

    4.3. Bodies

    It is necessary for the People’s Assembly to have specialized factions, which study and bring forth issues, which are looked into by the Assembly, or the issues related to the Assembly. Under the former Constitution, these factions were 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 

    4.4. Committees

    Until the date of dissolution of the Parliament by virtue of the Constitutional Court decision of June 2012, there were 19 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
    • The Human Rights Committee 

    5. 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. The former Constitution provided for a minimum of  132 members as will be determined by law, which, as per Law No. 120 of 2011, was set to 270 members. Two-thirds of the Council’s members are directly elected by the people, while the other third is appointed by the President of Republic, and hence may be replaced at his discretion.  Declaration 2 maintained the same minimum composition of the Shura Council., . Two thirds of the elected members are elected through list system and the other third through individual elections system. Half of the elected members of the Shura Council, too, have to be farmers and workers. 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.   

     

    As previously mentioned, all those pertaining to the Parliament, including those relating to the continued existence of the Shura Council, are being revisited and re-drafted by the currently constituted constitutional committee.

       

    5.1 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 memberships have expired.

     

     As explained earlier, the powers of the Shura Council are not as extensive or effective as those of the People’s Assembly. Its jurisdiction, as provided for by Articles (194) and (195) of the former Constitution and Article (37) of Declaration 2,  covers the studying and proposing of what is deemed necessary to preserve the principles of the national unity, social peace and the protection of the society’s fundamentals.

     

    Article (37) of Declaration 2 provides for the Council to be consulted on the following:

    • Drafts, and general plans for social and economic development.
    • Draft laws referred to it by the President.
    • All matters relating to the state’s general policy or international issues referred to the Shura Council by the President of the Republic.

     

    As previously mentioned, all those pertaining to the Shura Council, are being revisited and re-drafted by the currently constituted constitutional committee. 

    6. The Judicial Power

    6.1. Court System

    As the third independent authority of the State, the Egyptian Judiciary is comprised of secular and religious courts, administrative and non-administrative courts, a Supreme Constitutional Court, 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: the Courts of First Instance, Court of Appeal, and the Court of Cassation are 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 consists of 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 1970 replacing the Supreme Court established in 1960 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 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 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 afford a lawyer is generally available. 

    6.2. 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 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; and
    • 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.  

    6.3. Court of Cassation

    In 1931, the Court of Cassation was established as a 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 of a court of merit rather than 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”.

     

    By virtue of Declaration 2, the Court of Cassation is entrusted with deciding over the validity of the membership of the People’s Assembly and Shura Council’s delegates.  

    6.4. Court of Appeal

    There exist around seven Courts of Appeal in Egypt, all located 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/inconsistency of reasoning.  

    6.5. Court of First Instance

    The Courts of First Instance are first degree courts, which have the competence to consider lawsuits filed before them only if they fall under their jurisdiction; their rulings are, generally, subject to appeal. The Courts of First Instance are divided into Primary Courts and District Courts. Cases are mainly divided between both Courts on the basis of their value, leaving minor cases less than 40000 EGP (forty thousand Egyptian pounds) to be decided by the District Courts. Appeals made on the judgments of the District Courts are brought in front of a Primary Court with an appellate body, which is at the same standing of the Court of 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.  

    6.6. 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 courts also aim to sustain amicable settlements for family problems through specialized and professional guidance agencies.

    6.7. Economic Courts (Circuits)

    The enactment of Law No.120 of 2008 created specialized Economic Courts. The underlying philosophy of the new Law is to create a specialized judiciary that retains original competence over economic matters in both criminal and civil proceedings, and offers expedited commercial and investment justice.

     

    The new Law does not create a new order of courts, but establishes new circuits within the hierarchy of ordinary non-administrative courts, specifically at the level of Courts of Appeal.

     

    The new Law gives Economic Courts jurisdiction over criminal, as well as civil and commercial, economic matters. Such newly created Circuits are intended to provide a “one stop shop” for investors and disputants engaged in economic activities.

     

    Appeal is available under this new Law for cases involving amounts of L.E. 5,000,000 or less. Cases in excess of this sum are tried directly in appellate circuits. Review by the Court of Cassation is available for the latter larger cases, but not the former. Nevertheless, review by the Court of Cassation is available in all criminal matters. 

    6.8. 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. The Egyptian Lawsuits Authority is divided into seven parts, each capable of representing 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.   

    6.9. 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) to hold the right to initiate actions even if the plaintiff has relinquished his/her right to do so.

     

    Public prosecutors investigate crimes, visit crime scenes, question the accused, issue search warrants, and order the imprisonment of the accused for a period of four  days prior to trial or prosecution. If the Public Prosecution needs further imprisonment of the accused, it may request from the district judge to issue an order of imprisonment for a period of a maximum of fifteen days. This period may be renewed for a similar duration; however, in no event shall the total of the latter periods exceed forty-five days.

     

    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, Attorneys General, and potentially qualify for the post of the Head of the Public Prosecution.  

    6.10. Administrative Courts (State Council – Conseil d’ Etat)

    As previously, mentioned, any administrative dispute to which an administrative body is party is a matter handled by the Administrative Court and falls under its jurisdiction.

     

    Administrative Courts 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 advise 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.

     

    7. 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. 40,000 (forty thousand Egyptian pounds).

    (2)      Higher courts (such as the Court of First Instance): dealing with disputes of not less than L.E. 40,000 (forty 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 the North Giza Court of First Instance and the 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 Beni Suef, one in Mansoura, and one in Assiut.

     

    As for the Court of Cassation, there is only one in the 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 required to have been performed in Egypt; (e) Cases pertaining 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, and 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 the 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 insofar as their agreement does not violate public policy considerations or fundamental mandatory norms. However, certain areas of law, such as technology transfer contracts and termination of commercial agency in the event the agent is an Egyptian national, require application of Egyptian law and submission to Egyptian courts.

     

    8. Arbitration

    Alongside 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 which 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 of the Year 1994. Such nullity action may be brought for a number of exclusive grounds, though most are procedural.  

    9. Enforcement of Judgments and Appeal

    As a general rule, enforcement of judgments and awards is possible when an award is final, which is the case for awards rendered by the Court of Appeal, some of the awards rendered by the Court of First Instance such as a judgment determined by the parties to be final, or final arbitral awards. However, other judgments and awards rendered by the Court of First Instance may also be enforceable if provided for in the law, such as in summary judgments, unless the judgment provided for the depositing of a security or in commercial matters upon depositing a security. The judge may issue and provide for enforcement, while at the same time enjoying the right to deposit a security upon enforcement, such as in judgments issued to pay pension, wages or salaries,

     

    Enforcement of the judgment may entail seizure of property or assets as follows: (a) conservatory seizure over movables or immovables (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 judgments 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.

     

    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 enjoys 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. 

    10. 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 provisions of the Egyptian Arbitration Law No.27 of the Year 1994 and the impact of the New York Convention on the Recognition and Enforcement of Foreign Arbitral Awards (1958), to which Egypt is a signatory. 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.

    11. Primary Materials

    Egyptian Codes (Statutes) are published in Arabic in the Official Gazette (a special journal dedicated to 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 Legislation And Development Information Systems (LADIS), i.e. Tashreaat website.

     

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

     

    Unlike common law countries, Egypt does 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 Supreme Constitutional Court does have a website available in Arabic, English and French, where some useful information and documents can be viewed, including 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 issues.  The website provides studies, reports, laws, statistics, working papers, 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, and 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, research, etc. 

    12. Political Parties

    Egypt according to the former Constitution and Declaration 2 has a multiparty system; however, and prior to the Revolution the National Democratic Party has been particularly powerful and dominated the political arena. Opposition parties did exist, but they were not as influential or powerful as the National Democratic Party.

     

    Following the Revolution, and as per Declaration 2, nationals have the right to constitute assemblies, syndicates, unions and parties in accordance with the law.

     

    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 in order to maintain a secular political environment. Declaration 2 further states that political parties shall not be established on the basis of gender or race. In the past few years prior to the Revolution, 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.  

     

    Following the Revolution, several Articles of the said Law have been amended.  One of the most important amendments introduced to the said Law is the method for constituting a party, which was amended to be as follows:

    A notice shall be sent to the Political Parties Committee accompanied by the certified signatures of at least 5000 founders from a minimum of 10 governorates, with a minimum of 300 members from each governorate.  The party’s statutes and other documentation shall also be sent to the Political Parties Committee.  The latter shall make its decision with respect to the notice within fifteen days. 

    13. Notable Parties[[4]]

    • The New Wafd Party 
    •  Al-Ghad (Tomorrow) Party 
    •  National Progressive Unionist Grouping 
    •  The Liberal (al-Ahrar) Party 
    •  The Egyptian Labor Party 
    •  The Arab Democratic Nasserist Party 
    •  The Ummah Party 
    •  Misr El-Fatah (Young Egypt) Party 
    •  The Egyptian Green Party 
    •  The Egyptian Arab Socialist Party 
    •  The People Democratic Party 
    •  The Social Justice Party 
    •  The Democratic Unionist Party 
    •  The Social Solidarity Party 
    •  Misr (Egypt) 2000 Party 
    •  The Democratic Geel (Generation) Party 
    •  The Free Constitutional Party 
    •  Egypt Youth Party 
    •  The National Conciliation Party 
    •  The Democratic Peace Party 
    •  The Conservative Party 
    •  The Free Republican Party 
    •  The Democratic Front Party 
    •  New Center Party 
    •  Reform and Development (al-Islah wal-Tanmiya) Party 
    •  Freedom and Justice Party 
    •  El-Adl (Justice) Party 
    •  Al-Massreyeen al-Ahrrar (Free Egyptians) Party 
    •  Egyptian Socialist Democratic Party (ESDP) 
    •  Masr al-Sawra (Revolution’s Egypt) Party 
    •  Arab Justice and Equality Party 
    •  Masr al-Hadytha (Modern Egypt) Party 
    •  Al Nour Party 
    •  Al Eslah w Alnahdha Party 
    •  The Salafist ,Al Asalah Party 
    •  Al Waad Party 
    •  Al Ithad Party 
    •  Al Karama Party

    14. Governorates

    Egypt is divided into 27 governorates (muhafazah). The governorates, as sorted by the transliterated Arabic name, are the following:

    • 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)

     

    It is worth mentioning that two governorates had been created in 2008 (Helwan and 6th of October) and then abolished in 2011.

     

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

    15. Official Websites

    16. Inter-Governmental Organizations

    17. 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 

    18. Important Libraries

    19. 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.