Egyptian President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi has signed into law a bill that has recently been approved in the parliament to grant him more powers concerning appointments in the country’s judiciary.
The president endorsed amendments to Judicial Authority Law, which would now enable him to pick the most senior members of the country’s judicial system, local media reported on Friday.
The new law allows the president to appoint the heads of judicial bodies, including the Court of Cassation, the State Council, the Administrative Prosecution Authority, and the State Lawsuits Authority.
The president will be able to pick from three candidates nominated by each judicial council.
Two thirds of lawmakers in the Egyptian parliament voted in favor of the amendments on Wednesday. The changes had been approved by the Egyptian parliament’s constitutional and legislative affairs committee in March.
Its approval in the parliament prompted opposition from judicial sources, including Egypt’s Judges Club, which called on Sisi in a letter to refrain from endorsing the amendments and called on judges to convene in May to protest against them.
The State Council Judges Club wrote to the president that the law would undermine the independence of judiciary.
“It will be recorded in history that the Parliament has demolished the independence of the judiciary and crashed the provisions of the Constitution for the sake of replaceable people,” the Club said in a statement.
The Supreme Council of the Judiciary and the State Lawsuits Authority also announced their opposition to the amendments before the parliamentary vote.
Formerly, the Egyptian president only confirmed appointments by judicial councils as a formality, and the final decision still rested with judicial councils.
Amnesty International condemned the new law on Thursday. It said the Egyptian administration “is seeking to further consolidate its grip on power and neuter two of the highest courts who have at times acted as a check on the executive.”
“This law has the potential to undermine the independence of the country’s already beleaguered judiciary and, if ratified by the President, could be a major setback for justice in Egypt,” said Amnesty International’s campaign director for North Africa Najia Bounaim.
He warned that the law “could weaken key checks and balances in an already unjust system.”
Sisi came to power in a military coup in 2013.