A January ruling that rejected the government’s controversial plan to transfer Tiran and Sanafir islands to Saudi Arabia has been annulled.
On Sunday, the Cairo Court of Urgent Matters annulled the Supreme Administrative Court (SAC) ruling which cancelled the Egyptian-Saudi Arabian maritime border agreement under which Tiran and Sanafir islands had been transferred to the Gulf country.
A web of rulings issued by different courts, whose competency to rule on the matter, has characterized the case for months.
A lawsuit filed to the Cairo Court of Urgent Matters argued that the January ruling issued by the SAC “stole the purview from all judicial bodies and state authorities as stipulated in the Constitution and the law, and acted as if the administrative judiciary combines all branches of government, be they executive, judicial or legislative.”
Lawyer Khaled Ali, one of the lawyers who appealed the island deal, told Mada Masr that the team will take all necessary legal action to suspend today’s ruling, adding that the court of urgent matters is not entitled to rule on the viability of the rulings of the Supreme Administrative Court.
“The rulings of the Supreme Administrative Court are final and binding and cannot be suspended by any other court,” he said.
Ali claimed that the Court of Urgent Matters ruling was “created” with the objective of “giving Parliament the judicial cover to justify discussing the agreement.” The move, he said, is “illegal and unconstitutional.”
The ruling also prepares the ground for a new appeal at the Supreme Constitutional Court challenging the Supreme Administrative Court ruling on the basis of a dispute resulting from two contradictory rulings on the same case, said Ali; the Supreme Constitutional Court will rule which court has jurisprudence over it.
Malek Adly, another member of the team of lawyers who filed the lawsuit against the agreement, echoed Ali’s view, adding that the urgent matters court does not have the expertise in cases related to state lands and that “it is impossible for the court of urgent matters which consists of one judge to be competent enough to rule in cases as big as this one.”
It is the Supreme Administrative Court, Adly said, concerned with cases related to state contracts and lands and other important cases related to rights and freedoms, which is the court that has jurisdiction in cases such as this.
Three courts are involved in the Tiran and Sanafir case: the State Council (made up of Egypt’s Administrative courts), the Supreme Constitutional Court and the Court of Urgent Matters. Two rulings were issued by the State Council annulling the maritime border agreement with Saudi Arabia, the first by the Court of Administrative Justice and the second from the appellate circuit of the SAC. Meanwhile the Court of Urgent Matters has issued two rulings annulling the two State Council rulings, the second of which is today’s ruling.
Additionally, the Supreme Constitutional Court will rule on two lawsuits filed by the State Lawsuits Authority, the body which represents the government in lawsuits, contesting the State Council’s jurisdiction over the case on the basis that it falls in the category of “sovereign actions.”
The Commissioner’s Authority of the Supreme Constitutional Court is currently writing its advisory report, which it will refer to the court in preparation for ruling in the two lawsuits regarding the challenge against the State Council’s jurisdiction.
Other than the judicial aspect of the case, Parliamentary Speaker Ali Abdel Aal said on March 14 that the agreement “reached Parliament, and it will deal with it according to its constitutionally mandated law,” clarifying that parliament is “waiting for some procedures and some papers being finalized in the coming few days, and as soon as they are finalized the agreement will be referred to the relevant committee which will study it.”
The head of the Parliament’s Constitutional and Legal Affairs Committee Bahaa Abu Shuqqa confirmed Abdel Aal’s statement, telling Mada Masr that “we are waiting for the finalization of the agreement’s paperwork, and as soon as the speaker refers it to the committee we will call on a group of experts to answer all questions about it.”
Ali had filed a new lawsuit at the State Council to appeal the decision by the government to refer the agreement to parliament after it was annulled by the SAC. The next hearing in that case will be on 23 May.