Friday, March 16, 2007

Step forward, step back

Egypt has taken the step of appointing 31 woman judges, our colleague Kevin Jon Heller at Opinio Juris reports. Tahany el-Gebaly (pictured), the 1st woman elected to the board of Egypt's Lawyer's Syndicate and the Permanent Secretariat of the Union of Arab Lawyers, will serve on the Supreme Constitutional Court. Some rights activists say the move is too little too late. Clerics are split: some fear that pregnant judges will harm the bench's prestige, but at least 1 says nothing in the Quran forbids woman judges.
In Pakistan, steps in a different direction: as a 5-judge panel continued review of President General Pervez Musharraf's week-old suspension of Supreme Court Chief Justice Iftikhar Mohammed Chaudhry, police in riot gear barricaded parts of Islamad against protests of what many view as a "grave threat to the judiciary's independence." Chaudhry's term is marked by a willingness to consider "cases of 'forced disappearance' – people believed to have been picked up by the country's powerful intelligence agencies without due process of law" – reportedly, "at least 400 people ... since Pakistan joined the American-led effort to curb terrorism in 2001." "When the state cannot protect" rights of the official charged with upholding rights," one Chaudhry supporter asked, "how can it protect women's rights or any other individuals' rights?"

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