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map courtesy CIA World Factbook; click for enlargement Constitution, Government & Legislation

Egypt's Constitution -- drafted in 1971 -- provides for a strong president who is empowered to appoint one or more vice presidents, the Prime Minister, the cabinet, and the governors of Egypt's 26 provinces. In 1993, President Hosni Mubarak was endorsed in a national referendum, in which he ran unopposed, to serve a third six-year term as President by the People's Assembly (he was subsequently elected again, and continues to serve today). The People's Assembly has 454 members, 444 popularly elected and 10 appointed by the President. The constitution reserves 50% of the Assembly seats for workers and farmers. Assembly members sit for five-year terms. The next peoples Assembly elections are scheduled for the year 2000. There is also a 254-member Shura (Consultative) Council that has an advisory role on public policy but no legislative power.

Source: U.S. Department of State; CIA

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Courts & Judgments

The Constitution provides for the independence and immunity of judges and forbids interference by other authorities in the exercise of their judicial functions. The President appoints all judges upon recommendation of the Higher Judicial Council, a constitutional body composed of senior judges and chaired by the president of the Court of Cassation. The Council regulates judicial promotions and transfers. In the last few years, the Government has added lectures on human rights and other social issues to its training courses for prosecutors and judges.

In the civilian court system there are criminal courts, civil courts, administrative courts, and a Supreme Constitutional Court. There are three levels of regular criminal courts: Primary courts, appeals courts, and the Court of Cassation, which represents the final stage of criminal appeal.

The judicial system is based on the Napoleonic tradition; hence, there are no juries. Misdemeanors that are punishable by imprisonment are heard at the first level by one judge and at the second level by three judges. Felonies that are punishable by imprisonment or execution are heard in criminal court by three judges. Criminal courts also have a State Security division to hear cases considered affecting state security; in these courts the defendant may appeal on procedural grounds only. The Court of Cassation hears appeals of criminal court rulings. Civil courts hear civil cases and administrative courts hear cases contesting government actions or procedures; both systems have upper-level courts to hear appeals. The Supreme Constitutional Court hears challenges to the constitutionality of laws or verdicts in any of the courts.

While the judiciary generally is credited with conducting fair trials, under the Emergency Law, cases involving terrorism and national security may be tried in military or State Security Emergency courts, in which the accused do not receive all the constitutional protections of the civilian judicial system.

In 1992 following a rise in extremist violence, the Government began trying cases of persons accused of terrorism and membership in terrorist groups before military tribunals. In 1993 the Supreme Constitutional Court ruled that the President may invoke the Emergency Law to refer any crime to a military court. This use of military and State Security Emergency courts under the Emergency Law since 1993 has deprived hundreds of civilian defendants of their constitutional right to be tried by a civilian judge.

The Government defends the use of military courts as necessary in terrorism cases, maintaining that trials in the civilian courts are protracted and that civilian judges and their families are vulnerable to terrorist threats. Some civilian judges have confirmed that they fear of trying high visibility terrorism cases because of possible reprisal. The Government claims that civilian defendants receive fair trials in the military courts and enjoy the same rights as defendants in civilian courts.

The State Security Emergency courts share jurisdiction with military courts over crimes affecting national security. The President appoints judges to these courts from the civilian judiciary upon the recommendation of the Minister of Justice and, if he chooses to appoint military judges, the Minister of Defense. Sentences are subject to confirmation by the President but may not be appealed. The President may alter or annul a decision of a State Security Emergency court, including a decision to release a defendant.

Source: U.S. Department of State

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Legal Profession

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Law Schools

Egyptian legal education takes place at the undergraduate level. Students become lawyers at the end of their four-year program (there is no bar exam), but cannot practice before the courts until they complete a period of apprenticeship in a law firm.

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