April 30, 2017

Substantial Amendments to the Criminal Procedural Law

A new law under no. 11 for 2017 was issued on 27 April 2017 to amend the procedures before criminal courts with the aim of accelerating the adjudication process. The law amended several articles of the Criminal Procedural Law no. 150 for 1950 ("CPL"), as well as Law no. 57 of 1959 regulating the Challenging Procedures before the Court of Cassation.

Article 277 of the CPL relating to hearing witnesses was amended to obligate the party who wishes to use a witness to clearly identify the witness and clarify to the court the facts that it is going to testify on. The criminal court is given, for the first time, the discretion to refuse to hear a witness if it believes that its testimony will not add to the investigations. In this case, the court must give reasons for its refusal.

In the meantime, Article 384 of the CPL was amended to give the criminal court the authority to issue judgments in absentia (in the absence of the accused person) if the accused person did not attend the hearing nor its lawyer. The old rules were adopting a more protective approach by considering a judgment to be issued in absentia even if the the lawyer attended. This was used by lawyers as a dilatory tactic to avoid the execution of imprisonment judgments issued against their clients.

As for the challenging procedures of criminal judgments before the Court of Cassation, Article 39 of Law no. 57 of 1959 is amendment, to divest the Court of Cassation, for the first time since its establishment, from its power to remand back a criminal lawsuit to the lower court for a new trial, in case of reversing a judgment. The Court of Cassation is now obliged to adjudicate the lawsuit directly and issue a final judgment in the subject matter. Such amendment would significantly shorten the time and procedures for issuing final criminal judgment.

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