The Judges’ Club, in collaboration with the International Association of Judges (IAJ), hosted the International Conference for Safeguarding the Independence of the Egyptian Judiciary on Monday.
President of the IAJ judge Gerhard Reissner arrived in Cairo late on Sunday, where he was received at the airport by Judges’ Club Chairman Ahmed Al-Zend.
The one-day conference was held to discuss measures to safeguard the Egyptian judiciary against infringement by other state institutions, reported state-run news agency MENA.
Heads and members from judicial authorities, judges’ clubs, lawyers, judges, legal and constitutional experts as well as media and cultural figures attended the conference.
Several campaigns like “Together to hold Al-Zend accountable”, “Together to hold Abdel Meguid Mahmoud accountable” and “Together for the full independence of the judiciary” released a statement on Monday criticised the conference as a way of resorting to the international community in Egyptian affairs.
The statement quoted one of the campaign coordinators, Hassan Al-Qabani, as saying Reissner might have been misled by Al-Zend who is affiliated with the former regime. Al-Qabani called on Reissner to listen to more than one side to get a complete picture of the status of the judiciary in Egypt.
“The conference isn’t about involving the international community in Egyptian affairs, it’s more about exchanging ideas and learning from other countries that respect separation of powers,” said constitutional expert Raafat Fouda, who attended the conference.
He added that the conference was to discuss judicial issues, gain experience from other countries that could inspire new solutions to judicial problems in Egypt.
In a statement released on Sunday, the group Judges for Egypt announced their rejection of resorting to international bodies to sort Egyptian affairs. “Those who called for resorting to foreign bodies should be held accountable,” the statement read.
President of the Judges’ Club Ahmed El-Zend said that he had invited Mohamed Saad Al-Katatny, chairman of Freedom and Justice Party and Younes Makhyoun Head of Al-Nour Salafi Party to attend the conference but they didn’t.
“Egypt Judges only resort to God and the people” said Al-Zend in response to accusing the Judges’ Club of resorting to international bodies.
He added that the Egyptian Judiciary will not give in to the increasing influence of the Muslim Brotherhood.
“We offered all we could to negotiate and we offered laws” he said adding that the amendments presented to the Shura Council can’t be described as law and those who drafted it know nothing about Egypt.
El-Zend praised the press saying that it was the cornerstone of development and enlightening the people. He also stated that Egyptian Judges are not troublemakers and will not allow a political current to take over.
Among the attendees were Television Host Gihan Mansour, Journalist Mostafa Bakry, Chairman of Egyptian Social Democratic Party Mohamed Aboul Ghar, and Imam of Omar Makram Mosque Mazhar Shahin. Prominent figures like George Ishak, Mortada Mansour, and Former president of Supreme Constitutional Court Tahani Al-Gabali whom Al-Zend described as the “Iron Woman”.
Al-Zend had announced earlier this week that he will take the violations against the judiciary to the international level, accusing the legislative and executive authorities of attempting to demolish the independence of the judiciary.
The IAJ is an apolitical, international organisation whose main aim is safeguarding the independence of the judiciary. “Independence is an essential requirement of the judicial function, guaranteeing human rights and freedom,” reads IAJ’s mission statement.
The judicial, executive and legislative branches of government have been at an impasse since controversial amendments to the Judiciary Law were proposed by Al-Wasat Party members in the Shura Council. The Judges’ Club boycotted the “Justice Conference”, which was called for by President Mohamed Morsi to solve the crisis, after the council insisted on discussing the amendments.