On Tuesday, the Administrative Court, overseen by Judge Yehia Dakrory, adjourned to June 7 the review of a lawsuit filed against the handover of Tiran and Sanafir islands to Saudi Arabia.
The lawsuit, filed by a number of lawyers and spearheaded by lawyer and former presidential hopeful Khaled Ali, called for the Saudi-Egyptian agreement to be revoked.
On April 8, Egypt and Saudi Arabia signed an agreement revising the demarcation of maritime borders between the two nations, handing over to the Saudi kingdom the islands of Tiran and Sanafir in the process. This was one of several deals signed during the visit to Egypt of Saudi King Salman bin Abdel Aziz early last month.
In a statement in April, the Egyptian Cabinet said that the agreement places the two islands of Tiran and Sanafir within Saudi territorial waters, although it said the agreement needed to be reviewed by parliament before being ratified.
Human rights lawyer Khaled Ali impeached the agreement in front of the Council of State on April 10. In an interview with Al-Masry Al-Youm published on April 12, Ali indicated that the case against the agreement would be brought before the administrative court on May 17. He added that there is a large number of lawyers and civilians who have expressed an interest in assisting him with the case against the agreement.
Ali explained that resorting to legal action against the agreement symbolizes a resistance to the agreement and to the changing of Egypt’s borders.
Several members of parliament have also expressed disapproval over the transfer of islands to Saudi Arabia, citing article 151 of the Egyptian constitution, which dictates that all agreements need to be reviewed by parliament; especially agreements concerning the drawing of national borders. The constitution also dictates that where borders are concerned, a nation-wide referendum is required before any agreements can be finalized.
With so many invested in the lawsuit, Tuesday's decision to postpone the case has left lawyers and MPs speculating for that much longer over what the court will decide.
Judge Mohamed Hamed el Gamal, the former head of the Council of State, said at the time of the handover that the government and the President’s decision to undertake this agreement was a matter of national sovereignty. Gamal said he expected it will be ruled that the islands agreement falls outside the bounds of administrative judiciary, adding that the general and administrative judiciaries in Egypt do not specialize in matters of national sovereignty.
Gamal said that any administrative decisions the government takes can be impeached in court, yet the judiciary has no authority to interfere with decisions concerning national sovereignty. There is an unresolved jurisprudential and legal disagreement over the judiciary’s authority to interfere in matters of sovereignty, he explained, but nonetheless, the judiciary has significant leverage in its authority to challenge decisions such as this.
For his part, Ali said that the constitution warns against the endorsement of any administrative decisions by the Administrative Control Authority.
Article 97 of the 2014 constitution dictates, “Litigation is a protected right that is available to all, and the state has a responsibility to resolve litigation conflicts should they occur. The constitution warns against the endorsement of such matters by the Administrative Control Authority. The settling of any case relies upon the jurisdiction under which the case falls and exceptional courts are forbidden.”
Ali added that it is the court that decides whether a case falls under its jurisdiction or not, and it will be their decision whether to interfere in matters of sovereignty or not.