Egypt

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LAWS OF EGYPT

LEGAL TRAINING RESOURCE CENTER

Background

Egypt is the 30th largest country in the world in terms of land size even though the vast majority of the 79 million citizens live in the fertile Nile Valley region.

President Mohamed Hosni Mubarek has ruled Egypt since 1981. He assumed power after the assassination of President Mohammed Anwar El-Sadat.

Type of System

Egypt's criminal justice system is modeled after the French system. The central sources of law include the 1950 Code of Criminal Procedure. The 1971 Constitution, as interpreted by the Supreme Constitutional Court, supersedes all administrative and legislative laws regarding criminal law and procedure.

Criminal matters may also be resolved in alternative venues such as the military courts (established in 1966) and administrative courts.

In addition, Egypt's emergency provisions have been in force since President Mubarek declared a national emergency in 1981. Under these emergency provisions, the president has almost limitless power to search and seize, order secret surveillance, confiscate property and close businesses. State Security Courts oversee violations of these emergency orders.

There are three main types of crimes in Egypt: violations, misdemeanors and felonies. The death penalty exists in Egypt for certain felonies however it is rarely handed down as a sentence.

Sources of Defendants' Rights

The 1971 Constitution grants certain rights to the criminally accused. However, emergency laws which trump even the Constitution, have meant that these provisions have a limited effect.

For instance, the Egyptian Constitution Articles 165-168 hold that

Individual freedom is a natural right not subject to violation except in cases of flagrante delicto...[n]o person may be arrested, inspected, detained or have his freedom restricted in any way or be prevented from free movement except by an order necessitated by investigation and the preservation of public security.[1]

Defendants' Rights

Pre-Trial

With the exception of flagrante delicto cases, an arrest warrant or summons must be issued in order to effect an arrest.

Statements that are compelled through physical or moral harm or threat of harm are inadmissible.

There is no explicit Constitutional right to silence in Egypt, however the concept exists in court decisions as well as the Egyptian Criminal Procedure Code.

While the Egyptian Code provides for a preliminary hearing by a judge, in practice this hearing is typically conducted exclusively by a prosecutor who then decides whether to continue with prosecution. Once formally charged, the defendant is brought before a judge.

Trial

Defendants have the right to effective assistance of counsel at trial and possibly in some pre-trial hearings as well.

Violations and misdemeanor cases are heard in a single-judge court while felonies are heard in three-judge courts. There are no jurys or lay factfinders in Egypt. In minor cases defendants may plead guilty or resolve conflicts through settlement agreements with the victims. Defendants have the Right to Compulsory Process and may call their own witnesses.

Egyptian courts have recognized that the defendant has the Presumption of Innocence as well as the right to a fair trial under the Universal Declaration of Human Rights

Post-Conviction

A defendant must file appeal within 10 days of judgement.During these appeals the court may rehear witnesses and even reopen investigations. The prosecution may also appeal a trial court judgement of innocent, althorugh the court must be unanimous to reverse such a lower court holding. After the initial appeal, defendants may appeal to the Court of Cassation. This court rules only on matters of law.

Ineffective Assistance of Counsel is a valid grounds for appeal for felony cases. The standard is whether the lawyer provided a "Genuine" defense as opposed to a "token" one. Other post-judgement appeals may be founded on conflicts of interest and inadequately expereinced counsel.



See Criminal Justice Systems Around the World

QUICK FACTS

  • 2009 Prison Population: 64,378 prisoners including pre-trial detainees and remands.

Notes

  1. Constitution of Egypt Arts. 165-168
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