Egypt is civil law legal system with a constitution that is fully independent.
Egypt has two levels of civil courts of primary jurisdiction: the Summary Courts generally hear cases where its value don’t exceed 10,000 and it also include Urgent Matters Courts. Courts of First Instance generally hear cases where its value exceed 10,000 and also hear criminal, labor and commercial matters. Courts of First Instance hear appeals from the Summary Courts and appeals from the Court of First Instance are made to the main Courts of Appeal which are located in the principal cities of Egypt. The Supreme Court of Appeal (also known as the Court of Cassation) reviews decisions of the Courts of Appeal. The Court of Cassation reviews only appeals on legal issues and does not review questions of fact.
A separate judicial system for administrative disputes exist and operate under the jurisdiction of the Council of state (Conseil d’Etat) )) The administrative courts are empowered to hear challenges to the validity of decisions issued by administrative entities as well as disputes involving contracts with the Government. The Council of State also has a Legislative Department that reviews draft legislation and Government contracts and renders legal opinions for the Government.
The Constitution, provides that the Supreme Constitutional Court is “vested solely with judicial control over the constitutionality of laws and regulations”. The Constitutional Court also reviews administrative decisions and conflicts of jurisdictions between the civil and administrative
Contracts between Egyptian and foreign parties commonly provide for some form of international arbitration in the event of any disputes. The Court of Cassation has on a number of occasions confirmed the validity of such arbitration clauses. An Egyptian court will generally respect an arbitration clause and stay proceedings brought before it. Arbitration may be conducted under any set of rules chosen by the parties.
One of the most popular set of rules used in contracts between Egyptian and foreign parties is that International Chamber of Commerce (ICC). Arbitration under the ICC rules may be held in Egypt or abroad.
The local arbitration body that is often used is the Cairo Regional Center for International Commercial Arbitration (the Center). The Center applies the rules of the United Nations Commissions on International Trade Law (UNCITRAL). There are no requirements in Egyptian law that arbitration be conducted under the auspices of the Center or in Egypt.
The Arbitration Law brings Egypt further into line with the UNCITRAL model law on international commercial arbitration (which it appears to have been largely modeled after).
The Law is a comprehensive statement of the law on Arbitration and therefore facilitates the conduct and enforcement of international arbitration proceedings in Egypt. The Arbitration Law now requires only that the following conditions to be met for the enforcement of an arbitration award in Egypt:
• the award does not contravene any judgment issued by Egyptian courts on the subject matter of the dispute;
• the award does not contravene public order or policy in Egypt; and
• the award is in respect of an arbitration to which the defendant received due notice.
The Arbitration Law also clarifies certain aspects of Egyptian arbitration law by legislating in areas that were previously neglected. Under the Arbitration Law, the Egyptian Government is specifically deemed accountable for arbitration agreements it enters into and may no longer take the position that is not subject to commercial arbitration clauses. In addition, the ability of the arbitration tribunal to appoint experts are outlined in the text of the Arbitration Law.
The Arbitration Law provides that annulment proceedings all arbitration awards must be initiated within 90 days from notification of the award’s issuance. However, this requirement does not preclude the enforcement of the award except under certain circumstances. Applications for the enforcement of Arbitral awards must be accompanied by the original award or a signed copy; a copy of the agreement to arbitrate an Arabic translation of the award, authenticated by the competent authority if the award was not issued in Arabic; and a copy of the minutes evidencing the deposit of the award with the competent court in Egypt (usually the Cairo Court Of Appeal). Arbitration Law therefore provides a firm base for arbitration and enforcement of awards in Egypt.
[ii] Enforcement of Foreign Arbitration Awards
An award is issued pursuant to an arbitration that has taken place outside Egypt may be enforced in Egypt if it is either covered by one of the international conventions to which Egypt is a party or satisfies the conditions set out in the Arbitration Law.
Egypt is a signatory state to:
• the New York Convention of 1958 on the Recognition and Enforcement of Foreign Arbitral Awards;
• the Washington Convention of 1965 on the settlement of Investment Disputes between States and the Nationals of other States; and
• the Convention of 1974 on the Settlement of Investment Disputes between the Arab States and the Nationals of other States.
Egypt has also signed a series of investment protection treaties that also contain arbitration enforcement provisions. Investment protection treaties were signed with Belgium, Luxembourg, France, Germany, Greece, Iran, Italy, Japan, Lebanon, Morocco, Netherlands, Romania, Sudan, Switzerland, the United Kingdom, the United States, and Yugoslavia.
These treaties generally provide that arbitration awards issued in one country may be enforced in the other if the award is supported by written evidence of the parties’ agreement to arbitrate, the dispute in question is capable of arbitration in the country where the award is to be executed, and the award does not conflict with public policy. Where no international convention applies, the provisions of the Arbitration Law must be satisfied for a foreign arbitration award to be enforced
[iii] Enforcement of Foreign Court Judgment
To enforce a foreign judgment in Egypt the party seeking to enforce the judgment must obtain an exequator. To apply for an exequator the normal procedures for initiating a lawsuit must be followed. In order for an Egyptian court to issue an exequator it must be satisfied that the following conditions have been met:
• competence of the court rendering the judgment: the foreign court has jurisdiction over the dispute and Egyptian courts do not have exclusive jurisdiction over the dispute;
• due process: all parties to the dispute were duly notified and represented (i.e., not in contravention of the rule of natural justice);
• final judgment: the judgment is final (res judicata); and
• conflict of judgments: the judgment does not conflict with any existing judgment by any Egyptian court and the enforcement of such judgment will not contravene public policy, order or morality in Egypt.
Egypt is a signatory state to the Arab League Convention that allows for the mutual enforcement of court judgments among signatory States.