Technology and the law, developments in the Egyptian legal landscape

Awards Edition 23'

Modern Cases


Tarek Badawy

I was delighted to receive The Law’s invitation to comment on the developments in the field of technology and the law in Egypt. I believe that recent years have demonstrated that the Egyptian legal landscape is quickly adapting to technological developments. These developments are characterized by three main trends:

New developments at the Ministry of Justice (the “MoJ”):

Last year witnessed the introduction of online adjudication to certain Egyptian courts. Lawyers can now file their pleadings remotely by logging-on to a portal created by the MoJ, paying the relevant fees, and arguing cases from the comfort of their offices. Egypt is now the second State in the region after the UAE to adopt virtual litigation, albeit in part.

By doing this, the MoJ has caught up with its counterparts in various jurisdictions, as well as most arbitral institutions, that have adopted virtual hearings to get around the delays caused by COVID-19. Courts in Egypt now uphold the validity of virtual arbitrations (Court of Cassation, Case No. 13892/81 JY, judgment dated 22nd of February 2022).

Egyptian Judges are sometimes ahead of the law:

Senior Egyptian judges are more tech-savvy than one may think, which sometimes drives them to interpret laws in a manner that reflects the use and purpose of modern technology. For example, in a recent seminal judgment, the Supreme Administrative Court (Case No. 96845/64 JY, 4th circuit, judgment dated 22nd of May 2021) ruled that administrative authorities must rely on digital evidence to prove the commission of an information technology offence for purposes of imposing disciplinary sanctions on government employees accused of misusing social media. This obligation was not stated in the law but was introduced by judges as a safeguard against misuse of power by a government authority. In other words, if a government authority wants to discipline employees for their online activities, not only does it have the burden of proving deviant behavior, but the evidence itself must meet certain requirements, otherwise it will be deemed inadmissible.

In another recent judgment, the Court of Cassation held that the integrity of electronic communications may only be challenged by means of a forgery claim and as opposed to simple denial (Case No. 17698/89 JY, judgment dated 10th of March 2020).... The judgment therefore equated the status of electronic communications to that of official documents issued or ratified by competent government entities (with all the implications that may ensue if the document is ultimately found to be forged, such as criminal prosecution). Not only does this elevate the status of electronic documents insofar as their probative value is concerned, but by issuing this judgment, the Court of Cassation effectively closed the door in the face of the various delay tactics adopted by lawyers to prolong proceedings in an attempt to strongarm opposing parties into accepting a settlement or withdrawing their claims.

The conclusions reached by Egypt’s highest administrative and ordinary courts have no basis in statute but were introduced by judges as a form of judicial activism to combat the misuse of power by government authorities and put an end to certain lawyers’ antics, all the while keeping abreast of technological developments to ultimately achieve justice.

The legislator is catching up; sometimes a little too fast:

Conscious of the need