Egypt judges refuse to supervise constitution vote
CAIRO: Egypt’s Judges Club, which represents judges across the country, announced on Sunday that it would not supervise a referendum on a draft constitution, amid a tense standoff between President Mohammed Morsi and the judiciary.
“It has been agreed by all the judges of Egypt and the Judges Clubs outside the capital not to supervise a referendum on the draft constitution and to boycott it,” the head of the Judges Club, Ahmed al-Zind, said in a statement carried by the official MENA news agency.
The strike by the Supreme Constitutional Court and opposition plans to march on the presidential palace on Tuesday take the country’s latest political crisis to a level not seen in the nearly two years of turmoil since Hosni Mubarak’s ouster in a popular uprising.
Judges from the country’s highest appeals court and its sister lower court were already on an indefinite strike, joining colleagues from other tribunals who suspended work last week to protest what they saw as Morsi’s assault on the judiciary.
The last time Egypt had an all-out strike by the judiciary was in 1919, when judges joined an uprising against British colonial rule.
The standoff began when Morsi issued decrees on Nov. 22 giving him near-absolute powers that granted himself and the Islamist-dominated assembly drafting the new constitution immunity from the courts.
The constitutional panel then raced in a marathon session last week to vote on the charter’s 236 clauses without the participation of liberal and Christian members. The fast-track hearing pre-empted a decision from the Supreme Constitutional Court that was widely expected to dissolve the constituent assembly.
The judges on Sunday postponed their ruling on that case just before they went on strike.
Without a functioning justice system, Egypt will be plunged even deeper into turmoil. It has already seen a dramatic surge in crime after the uprising, while state authority is being challenged in many aspects of life and the courts are burdened by a massive backlog of cases.