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Egyptian customary law: History, evolution and prospects

Issue 65
Egyptian customary law:  History, evolution and prospects

Ahmed Abu Al-Ila . Egypt


The purpose of this study is to highlight Egyptian customary law and the function of its judiciary in enforcing societal peace and retributive justice among members, irrespective of their cultural background. This sort of court has undergone a significant transformation, and it is important to note both the scope and the reasons behind this shift.

The first of the article's six parts explains how customary law came to be by outlining the concept of law in tribal societies and the six most essential foundational ideas upon which it was based:

 Customary law is defined in Section 2 as the established norms of conduct among a people in relation to a certain issue, with the assumption that these norms are legally enforceable and that those who violate them face tangible consequences.

 The customary rule, which also governs the dynamics of interpersonal relationships and the ways in which people interact with one another, determines a person's obligations and boundaries. Social harmony, safety and stability for all members of society are its end goals.

Customary law is defined by its most essential features: its potential to evolve over time, society's reason for maintaining it, and the purposeful and uninterrupted transmission of this law from one generation to the next.

The ecological aspects of customary law are discussed in the third section, along with the significant impact that geographical, environmental and living situations have on the development of Bedouin traditions. The ecological conditions of the desert had a significant impact on shaping society's features and guiding its members' actions, and these features and customs worked together in harmony to help people survive the harsh environment.

The state's formal recognition of customary law is discussed in Section 4. The connection among informal norms, formal laws and the power of the state is explored.

Cases go through long processes in official courts, and statutory law focuses on punishment and deterrence rather than reconciliation and the conciliatory goals that are central to customary law. These are some of the main differences between the two systems of law.

As a further advantage, customary law highlights the inherent flexibility of customary norms and can result in judgements that are stricter than those of the state's law. The absence of organised coercion in customary court judgement enforcement is also addressed in this section. This section also provides a brief overview of the Matrouh and Sinai customary laws.

The fifth section provides a synopsis of customary justice's guiding concepts: the importance of consensus in customary law; the relative nature of law and punishment; the common ground of retribution; and the connection between custom and Sharia (Islamic law).

Finally, in Section 6, I talk about the causes and effects of the shifts in customary law, as well as their potential future developments, delving into the causes of customary justice's decline and its subsequent reform.

Some of these factors include how desert societies view authority as changing over time, the limits of customary law, how education has cast doubt on the efficacy of tribal systems as social controls, how younger generations lack knowledge of customs, how traditional family structures are falling apart, and how the power of legal authorities, such as customary judges, is diminishing.

Following this, I went over the key points of the new customary justice system, which include the establishment of reconciliation councils, the substitution of fines for penalties, the participation of security forces in numerous community affairs (such as the establishment of customary councils and the resolution of disputes), the use of experts rather than judges to evaluate cases, the need to document agreements and actions, the lessening of vengeance in violent crimes, the substitution of a bank cheque for a "guarantor", the abandonment of the notion of social solidarity duty, and the implementation of Islamic Sharia in execution proceedings.

 Finally, the study provides some predictions for the future of customary justice among Egypt's Bedouin people. There will likely be further shifts in this area of justice in the not-too-distant future, and current customs mirror societal, economic, cultural and administrative shifts.



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