Two new legislative amendments would give the Supreme Constitutional Court the right to revise international arbitration rulings if proven harmful to the local economy.
Egypt’s House of Representatives is expected next week to discuss new controversial amendments to the law regulating the performance of the Supreme Constitutional Court (48/1979).
Ibrahim Al-Heneidi, head of parliament’s Legislative and Constitutional Affairs Committee, told reporters he had received a message from the general assembly of the Supreme Constitutional Court (SCC) saying it supported two government-drafted amendments to Law 48/1979.
The amendments will allow the SCC to revise international rulings and foreign agreements which might affect Egypt’s economic security and state whether any of these rulings or agreements violate the constitution. “The changes are necessary in order to give the SCC authority over international arbitration rulings and foreign agreements that impact Egypt’s economy,” Al-Heneidi said.
Said Marei, head of the SCC, said in an interview that the SCC’s support of the amendments came after careful study and that the changes “aim to safeguard Egypt’s strategic economic interests”.
Ali Badr, a member of parliament’s Legislative and Constitutional Affairs Committee, explained that the two amendments would expand the SCC’s jurisdiction which is currently limited to local laws and decrees. The two amendments extend the SCC’s authority to include rulings issued by international institutions and allow it a say on international agreements. “If the prime minister thinks that an international ruling or a foreign agreement could impact Egypt’s national economic security,” said Badr, “he could ask SCC to review the ruling or agreement in constitutional terms.”
Atef Al-Meghawri, head of the Tagammu Party’s parliamentary group, told reporters many Legislative and Constitutional Committee members were worried the amendments could discourage foreign businesses from investing in Egypt. “Foreign investors always look at how commercial and investment disputes are settled in the country before they invest,” Al-Meghawri said. “They are unlikely to invest in countries where they think international rulings on investment disputes could be ignored by the government on constitutional grounds.”
Al-Meghawri recommended that the Ministry of Investment and Cairo’s International Arbitration Centre conduct a careful review of the two amendments and inform parliament whether they will harm the investment climate in Egypt.
MPs Suleiman Wahdan and Diaaeddin Dawoud argued during the meeting that the committee should invite the minister of Investment and international arbitration experts to give their views on the proposed changes.
Dawoud said Article 192 of the constitution is clear that SCC’s jurisdiction is limited to local laws and decrees. “Besides, I think that parliament’s approval of the two amendments could cause negative implications in international investment circles,” Dawoud said
Rashad also said that “contrary to what some MPs believe, the two amendments will improve the investment climate in Egypt because they make clear to foreign investors the mechanism used in settling commercial disputes.”
Deputy Minister of Justice Haitham Al-Baqli explained that the new amendments do not provide the government with a tool to ignore foreign agreements or international arbitration rulings.
“The changes will allow the government to refer foreign agreements and international arbitration rulings to the SCC to decide whether they are constitutional. The prime minister will send a request to the SCC, saying that he believes that a certain ruling violates a certain article in the constitution, and ask the court to meet to give a final say,” Al-Baqli said.