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

By Dr. Mohamed S. E. Abdel Wahab

Prof. Dr. Mohamed S. E. Abdel Wahab (MCIArb.), Licence en Droit -LLB (CAI), LL.M (CAI), MPhil (MAN), Ph.D (MAN), is the Chair of the Private International Law Department at the Faculty of Law, Cairo University, Egypt, Founding Partner and head of International Arbitration, Construction and Oil & Gas at Zulficar & Partners Law Firm. He also serves as the Vice President of the ICC International Court of Arbitration; Vice Chair, IBA Arab Regional Forum; Member of the CIMAC Court of Arbitration; Member of AAA-ICDR International Advisory Committee; Member of the Advisory Committee of the CRCICA; Trustee for the CIArb; Member of CIArb’s Board of Management (2018) and Practice and Standards Committee (2011 – 2018); President of the CIArb’s Egypt Branch (2018); Member of the Court, LCIA (2014-2019); President of the LCIA’s Arab Users’ Council (2016 – 2018); Member of the Advisory Council of Africa Arbitration; Dean and Member of the Advisory Council of the Africa Arbitration Academy; Member of the SIAC’s African Users’ Council; Member of the ICODR’s Governing Board; Fellow of the National Centre for Technology and Dispute Resolution at the University of Massachusetts, Amherst, USA, and Associate Member of the Centre for Private International Law at Aberdeen University, UK and Member of Arbitrator Intelligence’s Board of Advisors. Prof. Dr. Abdel Wahab holds several visiting positions in Egypt, the UK, and the USA and teaches Private International Law, English Contract Law, Introduction to Anglo-American Law, Comparative Law, International Arbitration, Construction Law & Practice and Online Dispute Resolution. Prof. Dr. Abdel Wahab is recognized as a world-leading arbitrator and arbitration practitioner on international investment and international commercial arbitration, Arab and African Laws, Islamic Shari’a, and online dispute resolution. He served as Sole Arbitrator, Presiding Arbitrator, Co-Arbitrator, Legal Expert and Counsel in numerous complex and high value institutional and ad hoc arbitral proceedings involving parties from the Middle East, Europe, Asia, Canada, and the United States. He participated in cases under the auspices of the AAA, AAA-BCDR, CRCICA, DIAC, DIFC-LCIA, ICC, ICSID, LCIA, LMAA, SCC, SIAC, as well as ad hoc UNCITRAL proceedings. Prof. Dr. Abdel Wahab holds over sixty-five prizes and is regularly published in learned international journals and sits on the editorial boards of several leading legal journals. He is a regular speaker at international conferences on International Arbitration, Private International Law, Online Dispute Resolution, Construction Law & Practice, Oil & Gas, Globalization and Ecommerce and IT Law. Who’s Who Legal (2017-2018) says: Mohamed Abdel Wahab is “one of the best practitioners in the world today” thanks to his “sharp mind and excellent legal knowledge”.

Published November/December 2019

(Previously updated in November/December 2008 and October 2012)

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1. 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 and is the sixteenth most populous country in the world with a population of approx. 99,413,317 people, according to the July 2018 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. This is because 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. Ever since 2014 onwards, Egypt has witnessed the development of an impressive array of infrastructure projects and road networks for better connectivity and the government is embarking on more and more projects to boost economic development across all sectors and offer better living conditions for all Egyptians.

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.

2. 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, judicial decisions do have persuasive authority. Courts are morally and practically expected to uphold the principles and judgments 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 principles laid by the supreme courts.

On January 25, 2011, an 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, the former President Mohamed Hosni Mubarak has, considering the Revolution’s demands, resigned and the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces (the “SCAF”) was entrusted with running the State’s affairs until such time when power is transferred to an elected President.

Following the January 2011 Revolution, the SCAF issued a constitutional declaration on February 13, 2011 (“Declaration 1”), leading to the following resolutions;

A second constitutional declaration was issued by the 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 enter into force from the date of the people’s approval in the referendum.

By virtue of the supplementary constitutional declaration issued on June 17, 2012 (“Declaration 3”), it has been stipulated that the 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, the SCAF shall have the right to appoint a new drafting committee. It is worth mentioning that Declaration 3 bestows on the 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 to undertake the drafting task. However, it is worth noting that Declaration 3 was revoked by the then 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, was then vested with the President.

The then constituted committee presented a draft Constitution, which was approved in a public referendum and the draft was officially adopted as the Constitution of the country on 25 December 2012.

On June 30, 2013, Egypt witnessed another Revolution and the 2012 Constitution was suspended temporarily. The powers of the President were, according to the prevailing constitutional principles, temporarily transferred and assumed by the President of the Supreme Constitutional Court (Counselor Adly Mansour).

On July 20, 2013, president Adly Mansour issued a decree constituting a committee of ten experts to propose amendments to the Constitution. That committee concluded its work on August 20, 2013. As a second step to amend the Constitution, President Adly Mansour, on September 1, 2013, issued a decree constituting a second committee of fifty people representing all spectra of the Egyptian community (the “Committee of the 50”). This Committee of the 50 began its work on 8 September 2013 and ended its mission within the 60 days’ time limit. The Committee of the 50 drafted the new Constitution and it was approved in public referendum in 2014 by 98.1% of the votes.

In May 2014, President Abdel Fatah El-Sisi became Egypt’s newly elected President with a phenomenal endorsement and support of 97% of the votes. In the 2018 presidential elections, President Abdel Fatah El-Sisi was re-elected for a second presidential term.

In November 2018, one-fifth of the members of the House of Representatives proposed amendments to some articles of the 2014 Constitution, and, following due consideration of the proposed amendments, they were approved in mid-April 2019 and a public referendum followed on April 19-22, 2019, with an approval rate of 88.83% of the votes (the “2019 Constitutional Amendments”). Amongst the notable amendments are: women are allocated at least one-quarter of the number of seats in the House of Representatives (Article 102) and that the presidential term of office is extended to six years (instead of four) and any president may not be re-elected for more than two consecutive terms (Article 140 (1)), noting that the current second term of the President shall be six Gregorian years starting from the date of his election in 2018 and he may be re-elected for another consecutive term (Article (241 bis)). The 2019 Constitutional Amendments also provided that the President shall appoint the heads of the judicial bodies or authorities and shall head the Supreme Council for the Judicial Authorities. The members of that council include: the head of the Supreme Constitutional Court, the heads of other judicial authorities, the head of the Cairo Court of Appeal and the Attorney-General. The 2019 Constitutional Amendments have re-introduced a second chamber of the Parliament under the name of the House of Senates (Article 248).

3. The Executive Power

3.1. The President

The President of Egypt is the Head of the State, and he is also the Supreme Commander of the Armed Forces and Head of the Executive Authority (the Egyptian Cabinet). In addition, the President heads the Supreme Council for the Judicial Authorities (Article 185 of the 2019 Constitutional Amendments). The President assumes the customary powers normally afforded thereto under a presidential political system.

Requirements to Hold Office: Article (141) of the Egyptian Constitution clearly states that a presidential candidate of Egypt must meet certain requirements. First, he/she must be an Egyptian national, born to Egyptian parents and neither his/her parents nor his/her spouse may have held another citizenship. He/She must enjoy both political and civil rights. Moreover, his/her age should not be less than 40 calendar years on the day of registration as a candidate.

Term(s) of Office: According to Article (140) of the Constitution, after being elected by direct secret ballot, with an absolute majority of valid votes (Article 143), the President will serve six consecutive calendar years commencing on the day the term of his predecessor ends. The President may only be re-elected once. However, the current second term of the President shall be six Gregorian years starting from the date of his election in 2018 and may be re-elected for another consecutive term (Article (241 bis)).

Powers: According to Article (146) of the Constitution, the President of the Republic assigns a Prime Minister to form the government and introduce his/her program to the House of Representatives. If his/her government does not win the confidence of the majority of the members of the House of Representatives within thirty days at the most, the President shall appoint a Prime Minister who is nominated by the party or the coalition that holds the majority or the highest number of seats in the House of Representatives. If the government of such prime minister fails to win the confidence of the majority of the members of the House of Representatives within thirty days, the House shall be deemed dissolved, and the President of the Republic shall call for the election of a new House of Representatives within sixty days from the date on which the dissolution is announced. In the event the government is chosen from the party or the coalition that holds the majority or the highest number of seats in the House of Representatives, the President of the Republic shall, in consultation with the Prime Minister, choose the Ministers of Defense, Interior, Foreign Affairs and Justice.

According to Article 102 of the Constitution, the President may appoint no more than 5% of the members of the House of Representatives. The President shall call the House of Representatives to session (Article 115). According to Article 151 of the Constitution, the President represents the State in its foreign relations and concludes treaties and ratifies them after the approval of the House of Representatives. Voters must be called for referendum on the treaties related to making peace and alliances, as well as those relating to sovereign rights. In all cases, no treaty which is contrary to the provisions of the Constitution or which results in ceding any part of the State’s territory may be concluded. However, the President, after consulting the Cabinet, may pardon the convicts or reduce their punishment (Article 155).

In case an event, which requires taking urgent measures that cannot be delayed, occurs while the House of Representatives is not in session, the President of the Republic shall call the House for an urgent meeting to present the matter thereto (Article 156).

3.2. Cabinet

As the chief executive body of Egypt, the Cabinet consists of the Prime Minister, his/her deputies, the Cabinet Ministers, and their deputies. 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 (167) of the Constitution clearly defines the legal capacity of the Cabinet as follows:

In addition, Article (168) of the Constitution, the minister shall, within the framework of the State’s general policy, develop the Ministry’s general policy in collaboration with the competent authorities, supervise the implementation thereof and provide guidance and oversight. Traditionally, the Cabinet consists of:

3.3. Ministries

Access the list of Ministries.

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 policies of the State, approve 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 (Article 159) or replace the government and its Prime Minister in a vote of no-confidence (Article 131).

The Parliament was, since 1980, a bicameral legislature. It formerly consisted of two chambers:

Under the 2014 Constitution, the Parliament contained only one chamber, which is the House of Representatives. The Shura Council was abolished, but later on, in the 2019 Constitutional Amendments, the second chamber of Parliament was resurrected under the name of “House of Senates”. That said the Parliament now consists of two chambers:

Under the Constitution, every year, the Parliament meets for one nine-month session, but under special conditions, the President may call the Parliament into session.

4.1. The House of Representatives

The House of Representatives (formerly under the name of People’s Assembly) was founded in 1971 as a result of the adoption of the old Constitution of 1971. According to Article (106) of the Constitution, the House of Representatives should be composed of no less than four hundred and fifty members elected by direct secret public ballot. A candidate for the membership of the House of Representatives must be an Egyptian citizen, enjoying civil and political rights, a holder of at least the certificate of basic education, and should not be below 25 Gregorian years of age on the day of opening candidacy registration. The President of the Republic may appoint no greater than 5% of the members. According to Article (106), the term of membership in the House of Representatives is five calendar years, commencing from the date of its first session. For the parliamentary elections of 2016, it resulted in 90 women with 15% of the total members (such great percentage is gained by women for the first time), 9 persons representing the disabled, 8 Egyptians members abroad, and the percentage of youth under 35 who reaches more than a quarter of the members Parliament. The President has appointed 28 members of the House of Representatives.

4.1.1. Jurisdiction and Duties

Competences of the House of Representatives are as follows:

Legislation: It is the main duty of the House; it includes the right of the President, the Cabinet or any Representative to propose draft laws, which shall be referred to the competent specialized committees of the House for review and submission of a report to the House. A committee may seek the opinion of experts on the matter in question (Article 122 of the Constitution).

Under Article 121 of the Constitution, the convocation, or formal gathering, of the House of Representatives 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, provided that such majority constitutes not less than one third of the House members.

Under Article 123 of the Constitution, the President is entitled to have issue with or object to some laws. The President can send back the draft law if s/he disagrees with it, even if it was approved by the House of Representatives. S/he has a time period of thirty days to return the draft law after he/she informs the House. 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 House of Representatives 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 case the House of Representatives is not elected, the Constitution gives the President the right to issue decrees having the force of law, provided that they should then be presented to, discussed and approved by the new House of Representatives within fifteen days from the commencement of its session. If such decrees are neither presented nor discussed by the House, or if they are presented but not ratified thereby, their force of law shall retroactively be revoked without need for issuing a decision to that effect, unless the House confirms its effectiveness during the previous period or decides to settle the consequences thereof (Article 156).

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 Article (2) 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, secular rules. Since this Article was first enacted in the 1980 amendment to 1971 Constitution, it is argued that this 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, without limitation: Investment Law, Anti-Money Laundering Law, Intellectual Property Rights Law, Competition Law, Consumer Protection Law, Electronic Signatures Law, Banking Law, Taxation and VAT Laws, Public Private Partnership (PPP) Law, Arbitration Law, etc.[2]

Approval of Plan and Budget: The House of Representatives has one of the most important capacities in the State, which is to approve of the State’s general budget, as Article (101) of the Constitution specifically state that the general plan for economic and social development should be approved by the House of Representatives.

Under Articl2 125 of the Constitution, drafting the Budget is a serious matter and must be presented to the Assembly by the Cabinet within a period not exceeding six (6) months as of the end of the fiscal year in order to be voted upon. With respect to taxation, the Constitution states that taxes or duties may not be levied, charged, amended or abrogated except by virtue of a statute (Article 38). Accordingly, individuals or legal entities are not obliged to pay any taxes or duties except those provided under the law.

4.1.2. Committees

Under the Regulation of the House of Representatives, there are 25 specialized committees of the House helping exercise its legislative and monitoring duties:

4.2. The Senate

The Senate is concerned with studying and proposing what it sees as tools to support democracy, national unity, social peace, the basic values of society, supreme values, rights, freedoms and public duties, and deepen and expand the democratic system (Article 248). The Senate shall consist of a number of members determined by law, not less than 180 members. Two-thirds of the members of the Council shall be elected by direct secret ballot. The President of the Republic shall appoint the remaining one-third and the elections shall be held in accordance with the law.

4.2.1. Functions of the Senate

According to Article 249 of the Constitution, the opinion of the Senate shall be taken on the following:

5. The Judicial Authority

5.1. The Court System

As the third independent authority of the State, the Egyptian Judiciary is comprised of 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 which sits 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 public law entities. 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 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 enjoy judicial immunity and cannot be dismissed by the Executive Authority. However, due to the large amount of cases before the courts, courts experience backlog, which adversely affects the efficiency of the entire judicial system. 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.

5.2. 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 the highest judicial power in Egypt. By virtue of Article 25 of the Supreme Constitutional Court’s Law No.48 of the Year 1979, the court is empowered to:

The President of the Republic chooses the head of the Constitutional Court from among the five oldest deputy heads of the Courts (Article 193 of the Constitution).

5.3. Court of Cassation

In 1931, the Court of Cassation was established to provide exclusive and uniform interpretation and application of the law. The Court of Cassation is at the apex of the non-administrative courts in Egypt and is based in Cairo.

The Court of Cassation’s jurisdiction hears 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 in cases 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”. According to Article (107) of the Constitution, the Court of Cassation is entrusted with deciding over the validity of the membership of the delegates of the House of Representatives.

5.4. Court of Appeal

There exist around eight 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 final only open to challenge before the Court of Cassation, and usually on points of law or lack/inconsistency of reasoning.

5.5. 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.

5.6. Family Court

This court was founded in 2004 to provide a specialized judicial tool for family disputes. This court aims at providing social 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.

5.7. 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 forum 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 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.

5.8. Egyptian State Lawsuits Authority

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

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. ESLA is engaged in all cases involving the State or a State-owned entity.

5.9. Public Prosecution

The Public Prosecutor is appointed by the President of the Republic out of three nominees by the Supreme Judicial Council, the deputy heads of the Court of Cassation and the heads of the courts of appeal and the assistant attorneys. The Public Prosecutor’s term of office is four years or until reaching the retirement age, whichever earlier, and his post is for one period (Article 189 (2) of the Constitution). The Public Prosecution, headed by the Public Prosecutor, 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 a pre-trial detention 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. Notwithstanding this, if the pre-trial investigations have not completed, the period of the forty-five days may be consecutively extended for a similar period and different time limits may apply depending on the case.

Moreover, joining the public prosecution is the natural path to becoming a judge. Nevertheless, some members of the Public Prosecution remain within the latter and get promoted to District Attorneys, Attorneys General, and potentially may qualify for the post of the Public Prosecutor.

5.10. 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.

6. Jurisdiction of the Courts

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:

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:

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.

One Court of Appeals is in Cairo, one in Alexandria, one in Tanta, one in Ismaileya, one in Beni Suef, one in Mansoura, one in Assiut, and one in Qena. 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:

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 extent it does not contravene mandatory Egyptian law principles. Thus, parties to a contract are free to agree on an applicable law and exclusive jurisdiction, and their agreement will normally be upheld by courts insofar as their agreement does not violate public policy considerations or fundamental mandatory norms.

7. Arbitration

Alongside court litigation, arbitration has established itself as a prominent method for resolving business, commercial, and investment disputes. An Arbitration Law No.27 of the Year 1994 was enacted which governs both domestic and international arbitration. Egyptian courts are generally arbitration friendly and judges have generally accepted and supported arbitral proceedings. An arbitral award, by virtue of the Arbitration Law, is not 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 not 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.

8. Enforcement of Judgments and Appeals

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 like mortgages and concessions etc., rights of servitude, current accounts, funds or assets needed for public utilities, saving funds, and investment certificates.

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.

9. 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, 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. As a requirement for the enforcement, the award-creditor should submit an application for depositing the award with the clerical division of the competent court. That deposit application will be sent to the Arbitration Technical Bureau within the Ministry of Justice to render its opinion on the application.[3] The Technical Bureau shall render its opinion, whether to accept or reject the application for depositing the award, after ascertaining that: (i) the award did not violate the public order of the Arab Republic of Egypt or decide on a dispute that cannot be subject to compromise; (ii) the deposit application has been filed with the proper competent court.[4] After depositing the award with the clerical division of the competent court, the Chief Judge of the court issue its order whether to accept or reject the request for enforcement.[5]

The 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.[6] The conditions of enforcement under the Arbitration Law are: (a) the inexistence of a conflicting 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.

It should be noted that the conditions for enforcement of arbitral awards are more relaxed than those of foreign judgments, due to the provisions of the Arbitration Law and the impact of the New York Convention on the Recognition and Enforcement of Foreign Arbitral Awards (1958), to which Egypt is a signatory, without reservations.

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

10. 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 Technical Bureau of the Court of Cassation, the Technical Bureau of State Council are legally assigned the function of publishing their judgments. These Judgments have been published in book format in what we call "Collection of Awards." These are organized in chronological order by Judicial Years. The judgements of the Constitutional Court should be published in the Official Gazette. Despite the Constitutional Court having no technical bureau assigned the function of publishing its judgments, the Court regularly publishes its judgments in book formats like the Technical Bureaus of the Court of Cassation and the State Council. Nowadays soft copies of such rulings are available on CDs, USB sticks 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.

11. Political Parties

Egypt, according to the Constitution, has a multiparty system. As per the Constitution, 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 and it prohibits the formation of religious-based political parties in order to maintain a secular political environment. The Constitution further states that political parties shall not be established on the basis of gender or race.

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.

11.1. Notable Parties

The political parties as represented in the House of Representatives are:

12. Governorates

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

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 km square.

13. Official Websites

14. Inter-Governmental Organizations

15. Law Faculties (Public Universities)

16. Important Libraries

17. Legal Guides

[1] Prior to the 1980 amendment to the Constitution of 1971, 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] Second Article, Decree of the Ministry of Justice No. 8310 of 2008.

[4] Fourth Article, Decree of the Ministry of Justice No. 8310 of 2008, as amended by Decree of Ministry of Justice No. 6570 of 2009 and Decree of Ministry of Justice No. 9739 of 2011.

[5] Seventh Article, Decree of the Ministry of Justice No. 8310 of 2008, as amended by Decree of Ministry of Justice No. 9739 of 2011.

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