Dr. Gamil Habib, Catholic delegate to the Constituent Assembly believes the 2014 Constitution is a major step forward

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Mon, 2014-09-08
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Dr. Gamil Habib, Catholic delegate to the Constituent Assembly believes the 2014 Constitution is a major step forward

AWR, Cairo, September 8, 2014


The Egyptian Catholic Church was asked in 2013 to nominate two members to the Constituent Assembly; Bishop Antonius of Giza as full member with voting rights and Dr. Gamil Habib, lawyer and legal counselor, as reserve member.


AWR researchers Diana Serôdio and Omar Ali interviewed Dr. Gamil Habib as part of our project to write an extensive report on the Egyptian Constitution.




Just as Amr Mousa, Dr. Gamil Habib was also pleased with a mixed presidential/parliamentary system. “In the new Constitution, the House of Representatives has the right to accept a motion of no confidence in the President in the case of disagreement over the government. The President chooses the Prime Minister; if the house objects, it has the right to form the government itself. If they cannot agree, the majority party can set a motion of no confidence against the President or the Prime Minister. The selection of a Prime Minister has to take place with the approval of parliament. To the contrary, in the new mixed system, when we say that there has been a reduction of the powers of the President that is because he does not have the power to form a government. He only chooses the Prime Minister, which in turn forms a government. If the House does not sanction his choice, the government is forced to resign.”


Diana and Ali asked Dr. Gamil about concerns expressed by human rights organizations about a restrictive protest law that seems to conflict with Article 73 in the adopted Constitution. Egyptian authorities are also working on an NGO law that seems to include restrictions that seem to be in violation with the Constitution.

Dr. Gamil responded that, "according to the Constitution, in case of the absence of a Parliament, the President has the right to issue laws that are needed at that period, given that they are presented in the House in its first session for approval, amendment, or nullification.” He does not expect that “laws that are issued by the President in this period are going to be approved by Parliament.”


A number of NGOs, Dr. Gamil says, “have abused their rights through foreign funding.” This concerns funding to advocate particular political partisan agendas and thus this is for Dr. Gamil, a justified security issue. The Cairo Institute for Human Rights Studies believes the rights of NGOs in the proposed law are even more restricted than in previous legislation. Dr. Gamil believes it will not come so far, “with the wisdom of President al-Sisi, he will not pass a law that the country does not need. Moreover, in the government there is an advisory committee that has been formed with a ministerial decision specializing in legislative reform. This committee is composed of the best counselors and the best law professors from Egyptian universities.”

There is fear for articles in the Constitution that refer to laws that still need to be enacted. That would mean that future laws could determine how the articles in the Constitution should be interpreted. Dr. Gamil is not afraid of this occurring since the law can never be in violation with the articles that have been adopted in the constitution.


It is obvious that this Constitution is underpinning the importance of the independency of the judiciary. This goes so far as the judiciary, the only other institution besides the army, getting one budget line in the Egyptian budget. Legislators will be able to see the specification of the budget but it leaves the judiciary free to reduce certain budget lines and increase others within its one budget line.


The judiciary has been criticized for allowing the nomination of sons of judges as judges as well. Omar Ali called this an “institutionalized culture.” Dr. Gamil does not see a problem here since he believes there are sufficient procedures that guarantee that only qualified people are nominated as judge. Furthermore, there are procedures to complain about unjust rulings of judges. This institutionalized culture is not specific for the judiciary. It also happens in other branches in Egypt such as the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Police and Military, where sons of ambassadors and officers like to follow in father’s footsteps.


The interview was, obviously because of Dr. Gamil’s legal background, primarily about the place of the judiciary in Egypt. For the full interview please click here.


Cornelis Hulsman

Editor-in-chief Arab-West Report