Judiciary of Egypt

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The judicial system (or judicial branch) in Egypt, is an independent branch of the government which includes both secular and religious courts.

The Egyptian judicial system is based on European and primarily French legal concepts and methods.

The legal code is derived largely from the Napoleonic Code. Marriage and personal status are primarily based on the religious law of the individual concerned. Thus, there are three forms of family law in Egypt: Islamic, Christian, and secular (based on the French family laws).

The judicial branch plays an important role in the political process in Egypt, as the branch is given the responsibility to monitor and run the country's parliamentary and presidential elections.


Egypt was among the first world countries after France to establish a judicial institution. The beginning was in 1875 with the enactment of the modern codification under which the Mixed Courts were established.
The Egyptian judicial institution that existed in the mid 19th century was characterized by the following:

During the Ottoman era, the judiciary power was undertaken by one person known as the Chief Justice, who was assisted by four deputies representing the four schools of Islamic jurisprudence; Hanafi, Shafie, Maleki and Hanbali.
During Mohamed Ali's reign of Egypt and his endeavor to build a modern Egyptian state, two significant developments took place in Egypt, leading to the existence of various bodies of civil judiciary in the country.

Criminal code

Egypt based its criminal codes and court operations primarily on British, Italian, and Napoleonic models. Criminal court procedures had been substantially modified by the heritage of Islamic legal and social patterns and the legacy of numerous kinds of courts that formerly existed. The divergent sources and philosophical origins of these laws and the inapplicability of many borrowed Western legal concepts occasioned difficulties in administering Egyptian law.

The criminal code listed three main categories of crime: contraventions (minor offenses), misdemeanors (offenses punishable by imprisonment or fines), and felonies (offenses punishable by penal servitude or death). Lower courts handled the majority of the cases that reached adjudication and levied fines in about nine out of ten cases. At their discretion, courts could suspend fines or imprisonment (when a sentence did not exceed one year).

Capital crimes that carried a possible death sentence included murder, manslaughter occurring in the commission of a felony, arson or the use of explosives that caused death, rape, treason, and endangerment of state security. Few convictions for capital crimes, however, resulted in execution.

Egypt's laws require that a detained person be brought before a magistrate and formally charged within forty-eight hours or released. An accused is entitled to post bail and had the right to be defended by legal counsel.

The Emergency Law of 1958 outlined special judicial procedures for some cases. The law enabled authorities to circumvent the increasingly independent regular court system in cases where people were charged with endangering state security. The law applied primarily to Islamic radicals but also covered leftists suspected of political violence, drug smugglers, and illegal currency dealers. It also allowed detention of striking workers, pro-Palestinian student demonstrators, and relatives of fugitives.

The Emergency Law of 1958 authorized the judicial system to detain people without charging them or guaranteeing them due process while an investigation was under way. After thirty days, a detainee could petition the State Security Court to review the case. If the court ordered the detainee's release, the minister of interior had fifteen days to object. If the minister overruled the court's decision, the detainee could petition another State Security Court for release after thirty more days. If the second court supported the detainee's petition, it released the detainee. The minister of interior could, however, simply rearrest the detainee. The government commonly engaged in this practice in cases involving Islamic extremists.

Civil code

The Egyptian Civil Code is the prime source of civil law, and has been the source of law and inspiration for numerous other Middle Eastern jurisdictions, including pre-dictatorship Libya and Iraq as well as Qatar.


The Court of Cassation, the only one in its category, was established in 1931 and based in Cairo. The Court of Cassation, the exclusive body atop the judicial hierarchy in Egypt, was designated with the purpose of creating a central tool to provide exclusive and uniform interpretation and application of law. The jurisdiction of Court of Cassation basically includes consideration of challenges brought to it by either adversary or by the public prosecution. It also includes examining lawsuits related to judges' actions. In such a case, the court undertakes its role as a court of merit, rather than a court of law.
It also has the power to give rulings on requests of reparations for all violated verdicts. The court issues annual collections on approved judicial principles under the title “Rulings and Principles of The Court of Cassation”.

Courts of Appeal, some which are called Higher Courts of Appeal, have the competence to consider rulings by the courts of first instance falling under its jurisdiction should these rulings be liable for appeal.
According to the Egyptian judiciary law, there are seven courts of appeal in Egypt; in Cairo, Alexandria, Tanta, Mansoura, Ismailia, Beni Swaif and Assuit.

These courts of first instance have the competence to consider lawsuits filed before them as may fall under their jurisdictions. Their rulings are liable to appeal.

These courts have the competence to issue rulings on lawsuits of limited importance, falling under their geographical and term jurisdictions.
These rulings are liable to appeal.

The Family Court (FC) was established in 2004, motivated by the need to differentiate between family litigations and other disputes. It is intended to provide a specialized judiciary tool that would take cognizance of such cases in an atmosphere totally different from that of other lawsuits.
This aims to secure psychological peace for the children who may be involved, especially in such cases of tutelage, divorce, alimony, custody, etc.
The ultimate objective of this court is to hammer out an amicable settlement for family problems through specialized guidance bureaus.

The public prosecution acts as public attorney before criminal courts with the right to file criminal actions. It was given the right by the Egyptian legislation to initiate action even if plaintiff has relinquished his right to do so.

This judiciary has the jurisdiction to decide on administrative disputes to which any administrative body is involved. Egypt has adopted a dual system of judiciary, i.e. the ordinary and administrative judiciary.

References : An Approach to Leagal English & Terminology - DR.Mostafa El-Morshedy

See also


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