President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi appointed the heads of several judicial bodies on Thursday, an implementation of the controversial chief judicial appointments law passed in April. The law, which replaced the long-standing principle of appointment by seniority, was widely criticized for granting head of the executive authority increased powers to appoint the chiefs of Egypt’s top judicial bodies.
Magdy Abul Alaa was appointed as head of the Court of Cassation instead of Anas Omara who is the court’s most senior judge. Hussein Khalil was appointed as head of Egyptian State Lawsuits Authority instead of the most senior judge, Mohamed Mady, and the Administrative Prosecution’s most senior judge Rachida Fathallah was appointed as its chief, despite her expected retirement in September 2017.
No decision has been made regarding the State Council’s top post, as its current head Mohamed Masoud is expected to retire in three weeks.
In May the State Council directly challenged the recently passed legislation, unanimously nominating one candidate, Yehia Dakroury, for its chairmanship, instead of the three candidates required by the law.
Currently the State Council’s first deputy and head of the Court of Administrative Justice, Dakroury caused tension with the executive authority in June of last year when he struck down the contentious state-backed maritime border agreement to transfer sovereignty over the Tiran and Sanafir islands to Saudi Arabia.
However, Sisi was able to ratify the Tiran and Sanafir agreement later on in June, after an extensive legal contest, when the constitutional court froze all court rulings on the agreement.
The chief judicial authorities law was ratified less than 24 hours after it received parliamentary approval and grants the president greater powers over the appointment of the heads of four of Egypt’s judicial bodies: the State Council, the Supreme Judicial Council, the Administrative Prosecution and the State Lawsuits Authority. Judges have raised concerns that it threatens judicial independence in Egypt.