What is the Judges Club?

Context

The Judges Club (JC) is an exclusive societal group in Egypt whose existence is not well known to foreign entities outside the country. The JC is an unofficial society composed mainly of qualified Judges and its membership stands at 9,557, according to figures published in 2010 – the most recent estimates available in open sources (Al Jazeera, 03.12.2012). The club was established on 10th of February 1939, when 59 leading judges and prosecutors gathered at the Court of Appeals’ headquarters in Cairo and agreed to form a union. Since its establishment, the JC has been defined by a drive and commitment towards making Egypt more democratic and inclusive while remaining as politically objective as possible.

The JC has purposefully avoided registering as a professional association, as doing so would place it under the Ministry of Social Affairs’ remit (Rutherford, 2008). As such, resistance towards acquiring official status encapsulates the JC’s continued desire to remain independent and politically distanced from the central government. In saying this, the group is still tied to the executive arm of the state via the Ministry of Justice, which oversees the JC’s budget and has ultimate authority over judges (Carnegie, 20.08.2008). This embodies the conflict of interest the club regularly faces; on one hand, it adheres to a strict commitment to democratic values yet on the other hand must cooperate with a fundamentally undemocratic government.