CAIRO, September 13, 2012 - Lately, Egypt has witnessed several disputes round the drafting of a new constitution. Perhaps the most alarming issues were drafting a new emergency law and applying Sharia law as the basis of the Egyptian constitution.
In 1986, during the era of Hosni Mubarak, Counsellor Ahmed Mekki, the current minister of Justice, participated in the First Justice Conference in which he was the General Secretary; he also was one of the pioneer judges who established a movement for the Independence of Judicial system. Additionally, counsellor Mekki called for cancelling the emergency law .During the Egyptian revolution of January 25th, 2011; Counsellor Mekki renewed his call for an Independent Judicial system. However, a few weeks ago, the media in Egypt quoted Mekki as calling for the drafting of a new emergency law .
Counsellor Ahmed Mekki provided Anwaar Abdalla of the Communities The Washington Times with insight concerning the current constitution
Anwaar Abdalla: Cancelling the emergency law was one of the demands of January 25th, 2011 revolution; but we heard that there is a new emergency law or an amendment to the current law, in progress. Are you preparing a draft for an emergency law? Tell us about the new emergency law and why the government thought it was important?
Counsellor Mekki: I am against emergency law. Let me first explain the difference between a case of emergency that exists in a country and an emergency law. The emergency case does not exist now, but the emergency law was never cancelled, unfortunately people in Egypt are confused. In fact, emergency laws are there all over the world. The government thought it was important for special cases of insecurity or natural disasters. My idea was to present certain amendments’ to suit very special cases such as the security unrest in Sinai. In such cases of unrest military operations are needed, hence the emergency law is important and its validity is limited to 6 months. To announce a case of emergency the parliament must approve it within 7 days of its announcement. If the parliament refused the announcement it is not valid. The old law used to give wide authorities to the president, like for example, establishing special courts, strict penalties.etc. Such items need to be revised. The new law guarantees a trial in a normal court and not a military court, the defendant has the right to appeal to a normal court, this is different from the old law.
Anwaar Abdalla: We are currently working toward a new constitution will this constitution be based on Sharia law? And how Sharia law will be applied in Egypt especially that there were several demands by Islamist parties?
Counsellor Mekki: Laws are generally inspired from the will of nations. Sharia, the law of god, is the basic cultural component of the Egyptian people yet I do not believe that there is any obligation to apply the Sharia law unless the people accepted it. In the Koran, the call for applying the Sharia is not based on obligation but rather on what the majority of people accept. In part III, The Family of Imran:” section (104) “And there may spring from you a nation who invite to goodness and enjoin right conduct and forbid indecency .Such are they who are successful”. Muslims are calling for right conduct or applying Sharia Law yet it is should not be forced. We have a parliament that represents the demands of the majority.
Anwaar Abdalla: There are concerns that a government dominated by Muslims under Sharia Law will not keep minorities safe. How will the government ensure the rights of minorities?
Counsellor Mekki: We do not have minorities. People are citizens of the same country; the law is applied with no discrimination. Citizenship is the main criteria for ensuring the rights of people. The history of Islamic caliphate has witnessed ethnic groups and different religious groups and they got along because of citizenship.
Anwaar Abdalla: The rights of women and their participation in future of this country. Can you tell us about the family laws and how can it protect women’s rights?
Counsellor Mekki:The family laws are valid, perhaps some minor amendments are proposed. Women are treated equally even if they work as judges. The problem, in fact is a social problem and not a religious one. Judges move from one governorate to the other and their accommodation is designed to suit men especially in remote area. Therefore, some changes must take place.
Anwaar Abdalla: We have “brothers Mekki” in the new government, Counsellor Mahmud Mekki, as Vice President and yourself as the minister of Justice, both figures represented integrity and resistance of oppression during the previous era, can you tell us about your future plans in the government?
Counsellor Mekki: When President Mohamed Mursi appointed me as Minister of Justice, the main objective was to achieve an Independent Judiciary system free completely from the Executive authority. In fact, the Independence of the Judiciary system was always the dream of my life. I wanted to see an Independent Judiciary system. We have Independent judges but not independent judiciary system; I wish to see that in all the Arab countries. My vision of the supreme committee of Legislations which is proposed to revise laws by means of law experts and scholars to ensure my belief in making laws which expresses people’s will not by the ruling authority. Such laws must consider people’s opinion before submitting it to the parliament. Counsellor Mahmud Mekki, my brother has also his future vision to pursue democracy.
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