Lapido Media Middle East Published Articles

The Faith of Egypt’s Judges

Maged: ‘A holy mission’. Photo: Catharine Skipp/University of Miami School of Law

This article was first published at Lapido Media.

Multiple assassinations and repeated threats fail to make Egypt’s judges buckle.

The hammer of terrorism meets the rock of faith, with Muslim and Christian alike proclaiming a reality of inner peace.

‘What is the worst that can happen?’ Judge Adel Maged, vice-president of the Court of Cassation, the highest judicial court in Egypt, asks. ‘If they kill us, we become martyrs in our holy mission to dispense justice.’

Western media is full of explosive images of ISIS and others seeking death for the sake of Islam. Maged calls it ‘distorted’, seeking political gain.

Quietly, Egypt’s judges paint a different picture as the fight comes to them.

Bombs have been planted outside the homes of several. In mid-May bullets riddled the car of three judges travelling to their courthouse in the Sinai.

Six weeks later the Islamic State published agonising video of the atrocity. Hours afterwards a remotely detonated bomb killed Egypt’s public prosecutor, Hisham Barakat, on his way to work.

No one has yet claimed responsibility for the outrage on 29 June, and investigations are ongoing.

‘It is wrong for the tyrants to jail our brothers,’ Islamic State’s affiliate in Sinai said in a statement, referring to the judges in an audio message translated by Reuters one month earlier. ‘Poison their food . . . surveil them at home and in the street . . . destroy their homes with explosives if you can.’

But it is not just hardline extremists threatening judges. Lapido Media previously detailed Muslim Brotherhood endorsement of a document calling for ‘retribution’.

At issue is the death sentence issued to former president Mohamed Morsi and several hundred of his supporters. Thousands of others languish in prison.


The 52-year-old Maged thinks it is ‘ironic’ that such groups, like himself, see death as martyrdom. But while God will judge between them, he says, it will not deter him from his religious duty with the law.

‘The Quran says, “Do not let the hatred of a people prevent you from being just,”’ said Maged, a founding member of the research group Islam, Law and Modernity at Durham University, UK, where he is an honorary professor.

‘These threats will never stop us from treating all parties fairly and impartially, regardless of their social, political, or religious affiliation.’

Despite the threats against the judiciary, Maged’s daughter is following in his footsteps, studying law in Cairo. His eight-year-old son is undergoing British schooling. His family is nervous, and his wife is praying for the circles of violence to cease in all Arab countries.

Those under the direct target of terrorists should be given more security, Maged said. But the killing of random judges in the Sinai show that all are vulnerable.

But though he has taken ‘extra precautions’ at home in his upscale suburb in Cairo, Maged is undaunted. ‘We are used to working with all sorts of criminals,’ he said. ‘These incidents will never make us afraid, as God is our protector.’

Ramzy: ‘Everything is in God’s hands’. Photo:

Meanwhile, on his way to work Judge Amir Ramzy lazily gazes at the water buffalo browsing in green fields alongside the agricultural canals.

It is a strange serenity for someone whose name is on a death list.

Ramzy is among those directly targeted, his name found on a list on a terrorist captured in January 2014. Even then he declined an offer of extra security.

It is no different now.

‘I believe in God and everything is in his hand,’ the president judge of the criminal court in Benha told Lapido. ‘But I will die when it is written, no one can add a single day to his life,’ referencing the Biblical wisdom.

Ramzy’s driver navigates narrow roads and frequent speed humps during the 55-kilometer-trek north of Cairo through the Nile Delta.

His courthouse is fitted out with extra security, much of which he can bypass due to his position.

At the door to his chambers two policemen stand guard.

Cameras should be installed at every entrance, he says, but there are simply too many judges to guard on a personal basis. And so he commutes, alone.


Ramzy counts 7,000 judges and 6,000 prosecutors in Egypt. Ninety per cent, he believes, are as religious as he is.

‘All of us know very well that we are targets for these murderers,’ said the 41-year-old father of two, a boy of 14 and girl of 11.

‘My family is afraid, but we are Christians and we pray every morning, putting our lives in God’s hands.’

But religious or not, fear is natural. Remaining anonymous, some judges express it.

‘I am concerned about going to work,’ one judge told Egypt Source after the public prosecutor was killed, adding that other colleagues were concerned for their safety.

‘We feel a lot of pressure now,’ he continued. ‘If they can get to him, they can get to anyone.’

Perhaps. But for Maged, he and his fellow judges have a sacred duty.

‘Ours is a practice of the Prophet that must be performed,’ he said. ‘We are going about our normal lives.’

Both images are from the web. Copyright applied for.

Arab West Report Middle East Published Articles

Anticipating Transitional Justice and National Reconciliation

Adel Maged
Adel Maged

President Sisi has been elected, and everyone wonders what will be next. Will he continue the crackdown on the Muslim Brotherhood, as indicated? What does it mean that the Salafi Nour Party is backing him? Is Sisi an Islamist-of-sorts himself? Is he a dictator in the making? Does his presidency herald a coming liberal era?

For these answers one must wait and see. But beyond the obvious divide that exists in Egypt lies one reality: The constitution obliges parliament to issue a law on transitional justice in its first session. Having suffered – or celebrated – the fall of two presidents in three years, political frustrations exist among many. Far beyond frustrations, many are dead due to political violence. Few have been held accountable.

Transitional justice promises much; in theory and often in international practice it leads to national reconciliation. Will it in Egypt?

Again, one must wait and see. But ‘Adil Mājid, vice-president of the Egyptian Court of Cassation and an honorary professor of law at the UK’s Durham University, is one with a vision. In July 2013 he wrote an article putting forward the requirements of national reconciliation at a time the concept was first discussed after the fall of Mursī.

I have translated his article here, published at Arab West Report.

A year later, Mājid is very critical of early efforts, but is hopeful that with a new president and coming parliament, the groundwork is better laid. Though obstacles remain, in an interview he described his hope for transitional justice given current realities, in the framework of his earlier article.

This vision is given here, also at Arab West Report.

Of course, even worthy endeavors like transitional justice and national reconciliation can be employed for less than worthy ends. Mājid is well aware of this possibility. But in answering the questions posed above about the Muslim Brotherhood, Islamism, dictatorship, and a liberal era, a key indicator to watch will be how it is used, worthily or otherwise. Will it heal the nation, or hurt it further?

Please read the linked reports for indications from a respected expert. Then watch carefully, and judge accordingly. Justice and reconciliation are concepts to be respected, necessary for the well-being of any nation. May they be pursued with truth and transparency.

Arab West Report Middle East Published Articles

Adel Maged: Transitional Justice in the Constitution

Adel Maged
Adel Maged

From my recent article at Arab West Report, in a series of interviews about the composition of Egypt’s constitution. Adel Maged is the vice-president of the Court of Cassation, and has recently written a draft law on ensuring a process of transitional justice in Egypt. Its details are in the article, but here is an excerpt describing his effort to enshrine the concept in the new constitution:

Mājid’s law can come into existence through a simple presidential decree. He sought, however, to ground the concept of transitional justice more fully by inclusion in the 2013 amendments to the Egyptian constitution. Early on during the period of listening sessions, with Suzi Nāshid, a Coptic professor of economics at Alexandra University, who previously was selected to serve on the Shūrá Council, he presented his vision to the official dialogue committee in the fifty member constitutional assembly.

But so did representatives of Counselor Muhammad Amīn al-Mahdī, the head of the recently established Ministry of Transitional Justice. It also proposed the creation of a commission, but insisted that the ministry be included in it.

According to Mājid’s interpretation, this would ruin the most important characteristic of the commission: its independent standing. The ministry is an official arm of the executive branch, which could potentially threaten the necessary neutrality of the process. How can the government investigate itself?

Mājid believed the members of the constitutional assembly recognized the need for independence in transitional justice, but succumbed to the pressure of the ministry and failed to issue a decisive judgment on the matter. He declined to speculate on their reasoning, but suggested we speak with ‘Azzah al-‘Ashmāwī, the representative of the National Council for Childhood and Motherhood, who served on the listening committee. But the end result was the inclusion of an open-ended Article 214 into the constitutional text, which states:

In its first session after the enforcement of this constitution, the House of Representatives commits to issuing a transitional justice law that ensures revealing the truth, accountability, proposing frameworks for national reconciliation, and compensating victims, in accordance with international standards.

Basically, the committee enshrined the principle of transitional justice, but left the hard decisions of definition, composition, and methodology to the coming parliament. Fair enough, believed Mājid, but he would have preferred a stronger guarantee that his vision – based on extensive study of international models – would become a reality.

Please click here to read the full article at Arab West Report.