Egypt’s rule of law is being undermined by an authoritarian government which is routinely attacking legal process, lawyers and human rights defenders, the Law Society of England and Wales has warned.

A report by the Law Society and the Tahir Institute for Middle East Policy found that, following amendments to the constitution in 2019, judicial appointments in Egypt can now be made by the president. There is no transparency in the selection of judges and appointment of prosecutors, it states.

The factsheet also says that prolonged pre-trial detention, mass trials, and the use of the death penalty, especially for those critical of the government, have increased. Military courts can also try civilians without fair trial guarantees.

According to the report, lawyers and human rights defenders are routinely subjected to enforced disappearances, harassment, arrest and prosecution and their work is being curtailed by the application of various laws.

President of the Law Society Simon Davis said: ‘What is happening in Egypt demonstrates a flagrant disregard for a fundamental principle that underlies any free and fair society: the rule of law.

‘The politicisation of key judicial and prosecutorial appointments has affected the separation of powers, which in turn has allowed the consolidation of authoritarian rule.

'Likewise, lawyers must be able to provide legal representation freely and without hindrance to secure citizens’ constitutionally-guaranteed rights.' 

The Law Society has submitted its concerns to the UN Human Rights Council with the Tahrir Institute for Middle East Policy. Among its recommendations, it says charges against lawyers and human rights defenders prosecuted for doing their work should be dropped immediately.