"Christians in ID ... Muslims in inheritance" A new campaign from EIPR calling for Christian women’s rights in applying the principles of their law in inheritance shares distribution

Press Release

19 July 2019

The Egyptian Initiative for Personal Rights launched today its campaign "Christians in ID... Muslims in inheritance" to warn of the suffering of thousands of Christian women deprived of the right to invoke the principles of their by-laws regarding inheritance shares distribution. In addition to the courts’ insistence to apply the Islamic law in violation of the explicit provision of article 3 of the 2014 that the followers of the divine religions' religious principles are the main source of legislation in matters of personal status and the selection of their spiritual leadership. 

We stress on that the source of this serious issue is the absence of a legislation that activates the constitutional article, without disruption to the rest of the constitutional articles that prohibit discrimination on the basis of sex and guarantee freedom of belief for all without discrimination, as well as the vagueness of the current legal system which opens the door to a such serious violation.

The campaign is launched on the occasion of the refusal of the inheritance chamber(7)of Helwan the petition was filed by lawyer Huda Nasrallah, lawyer in the Egyptian initiative for personal rights, in case no. 2793 of 2018 in the inheritance chamber(7)of Helwan,  applying the principles of Christian law mentioned in article 245 of the orthodox Copts’  legal regulation issued in 1938,  which provides for the distribution of inheritance equally between male and female heirs. 

The court rejected the application and issued a death and inheritance certificate per the principles of Islamic law, ignoring the constitutional provision and the provisions of the Coptic orthodox’ legal regulations. 

The applicant was obliged to resume the death and inheritance certificate, based on the judge's exceeding of his state authority, meaning that he is not arbitering in a dispute or prejudice to the origin of the right when the death and inheritance certificate is issued in the event of a dispute affecting the origin of the right, it was necessary to refer the death and inheritance certificates to the competent court (the court of first instance), but did not do so despite the consent of all the heirs to the mentioned request. The appeal is reserved for judgment at the 7/12/2019 session.

Attorney Huda Nasrallah proclaimed: "The provision of article 3 of the 2014 constitution is a reasonable step in the way of activating the principles of citizenship and freedom of belief, although it is limited to followers of the divine religions, but the adoption of this provision without activating it is a waste of those principles, the provisions of article 3 of the present constitution is concerned with the application of the principles of the Christian law represented in the currently in force regulations on Christian citizens in all matters of personal status, including inheritance. 

The new constitutional provision shall, once it has been issued, dismiss the legal provisions that are prior to its promulgation and in violation of its provisions, which means the necessity of applying the provisions of the Coptic orthodox regulations in matters of inheritance to the orthodox Copts at present and its decision to grant equal inheritance shares between male and female even before the enactment of a personal status law for Christians. "

It should be noted that the principles of christian law were applied to Christians before the current constitution in some matters of personal status such as marriage and divorce, while the principles of Islamic law were applied in all other matters of personal status, including inheritance, although a provision was added to the inheritance law of 1943 on the inheritance of non-muslims under law no. 25 of 1944 to apply the law of the non-muslim deceased if approved by all heirs, but this law is not implemented. 

The courts have therefore applied the principles of islamic law to matters of inheritance for all, Muslim or non-muslim, citing article 875 of the civil code of 1948, despite the legal regulations of personal status, albeit inferior to the law, but as a regulation of a private matter, it supersedes this law, and its provisions must be enforced, in accordance with the established legal rule that private law derogates public law. 

This is what the Cairo court of appeal did in 2016 when it issued its ruling on appeal no. 11666 of 133/11 on 20/11/2016 of the personal conditions chamber (158), applying the principles of the Christian laws represented in the legal regulations of orthodox Copts in matters of inheritance that grant equal inheritance shares between male and female.

Therefore the Egyptian initiative for personal rights joins a large number of parliament members, parties and civil society organizations, which have repeatedly called for the necessity of expediting the promulgation of a unified personal status law for Egyptian Christians that ensures adherence to the principles of their legal regulation of orthodox Copts issued in 1938 until the completion of this law.

The initiative invites you to participate in blogging about any similar violations, in which the courts or administrative authorities refrained from implementing the explicit constitutional provision, as well as sharing your ideas and suggestions to overcome this legal obstacle that thousands of Christian women face every day. The initiative also invites you to follow our website and our social media accounts to learn about future releases and events in our campaign.