Egypt court: A gear for democracy?
Writer: Lobna Wassim
Levant TV Exclusive
In an unexpected move, and a rare show of rebellion against the Egyptian president, a Cairo court voted to cancel his decision to transfer sovereignty of two islands to Saudi Arabia. The “Egyptian Administrative Court” ruled that the April border re-demarcation agreement signed between Egypt and Saudi Arabia and which placed the two Egyptian Red Sea islands of Tiran and Sanafir in Saudi waters is void, adding that they should remain under Egyptian sovereignty. Moreover, it also prohibited any change in the islands status in any form or procedure for the benefit of any other country.
President Sissi had previously awarded the two islands to Saudi Arabia in a highly controversial deal during a visit to Egypt by King Salman, which also coincided with the signing of oil deals and development packages from the Gulf kingdom. The deal was designed to coincide with a bridge joining Saudi Arabia to the Egyptian resort town of Sharm el-Sheikh.
The verdict is likely to become legally binding if approved by the Supreme Administrative Court, but can still be appealed by the government which can appeal the ruling within 60 days. However, and in accordance to the Ahram Online the Administrative Court’s ruling will be respected by all state powers until the Supreme Administrative Court issues a final decision in the case of an appeal.
It is worth mentioning that since the announcement of the agreement between the two countries, a group of Egyptian rights lawyers filed a lawsuit with Egypt’s Administrative Court at the State Council arguing that President Sisi, Prime Minister Sheriff Ismail and Parliament Speaker Ali Abdel Al had wrongfully given up on Egypt’s rights over the two islands.
As such and led by Khaled Ali, a lawyer and former presidential, the lawyers argued that the border demarcation agreement was illegal, citing article 151 of the Egyptian constitution, which states that all matters regarding the drawing of Egypt’s borders must be reviewed by the parliament. In addition a national referendum is required before any changes to the State’s borders can be finalized .
Therefore, for many political activists such as Mr.Abdullah Mohamed and Mr. Naguib Gabriel, head of the Egyptian Union for Human Rights Organization, this court decision is a victory for the revolutionary campagainst the islands transfer of sovereignty. In addition it puts pressure on the General Prosecutor, who represents the executive branch of government, to release all detained people who have been charged with protesting against the demarcation agreement. Also it definitely marks a positive step towards an active democratic state where checks and balances are in place between the executive, judicial and legislative branches of government.
While the verdict is not final yet, however it proves the widely known principle of legitimacy and independence of the Egyptian court system and the judiciary power. It is seen by many as an aggressive challenge to Egyptian President Abdel-Fattah el-Sisi’s presidency and his executive ruling government, which has eagerly argued that the agreement will bring economic benefits for Egypt. It seems that time will determine who will come out as winners and who will be the losers in this disputed case, but one thing remains for sure that Egypt is moving at a steady and an accelerated pace towards building its own model of democracy. This model takes into consideration a balanced power structure in which all opinions are respected and highly valued.