This country-specific Q&A provides an overview of Litigation that may occur in Egypt.
This Q&A is part of the global guide to Litigation. For a full list of jurisdictional Q&As visit http://www.inhouselawyer.co.uk/practice-areas/litigation-second-edition/
Published June 2019
What are the main methods of resolving commercial disputes in your jurisdiction?
In Egypt the main pathways of resolving commercial disputes are litigation and arbitration.
The initial pathway of resolving commercial disputes under Egyptian law is Egyptian courts.
The Egyptian law has also introduced the Economic Courts in 2008. The Economic Courts have a very confined jurisdiction to resolve certain commercial disputes in a rather faster way (Including any disputes governed by the Egyptian Commercial code such as capital market disputes, financial instruments, etc…).
On the other hand, the parties may agree to resolve their commercial disputes through arbitration.
The Egyptian law also issued the Egyptian Arbitration Law in 1994. The Cairo Regional Centre for International Commercial Arbitration (‘CRCICA’) is the primary arbitration institution in Egypt.
Recently there seems to be a growing trend to resolve commercial disputes in Egypt through other methods including meditation, court-appointed experts and conciliation.
What are the main procedural rules governing commercial litigation?
The Egyptian Civil and Commercial Procedures Law no. 13 for the year 1968 governs all procedural rules governing commercial litigation.
What is the structure and organisation of local courts dealing with commercial claims? What is the final court of appeal?
The Egyptian court system for civil proceedings is split into two main court systems, the civilian and the administrative courts.
Civilian courts are three-tiered with the Court of First Instance, the court of appeal and the Court of Cassation. There are also small claims courts which take the place of the Court of First Instance depending on the claims.
Courts of Appeal are located in most major cities in Egypt. Their mission is to review decisions related to civil matters issued by the Courts of First Instance.
There are also courts of special jurisdiction that run in parallel to the civil and administrative courts mentioned above, such as the Economic Courts, the Supreme Constitutional Court, the Family Courts and the Environmental Courts all of which deal with specific issues.
The Economic Courts have a very confined jurisdiction concerned resolving certain commercial disputes governed by the Egyptian Commercial Code, Egyptian Banking Law, Egyptian Capital Market Law, Egyptian Companies Law and other laws. The Economic Courts have their own appeal circuits within the court.
There is only one Court of Cassation which is located in Cairo. It is considered the highest judicial body in the Egyptian court system. The Court of Cassation’s main objective is to provide a comprehensive and uniform interpretation of the law.
How long does it typically take from commencing proceedings to get to trial?
In order to commence a court case, the plaintiff must first submit its case writ to the court. The court schedules a date for the first hearing to review the case. The court usually schedules the first hearing within 1-3 months from the date of filing the claim. The court bailiff department serves a notice to the defendant with the case writ. The notice should be served within a thirty-day period. The notice period is longer if the defendant domiciles outside the Egyptian territory. The court proceedings should commence once the defendant is notified with the court case.
In civil legal systems, every hearing there is a 5 to 10 minutes oral pleadings including submitting documents. There are usually more than one hearing per case depending on the process.
The entire process may take from 1-3 years at the first instance court and the same before the court of appeal.
The court proceedings may take more time in several occasions such as if there are documents submitted in foreign languages which must be officially translated by the court and if the court refers the case to court appointed experts.
Are hearings held in public and are documents filed at court available to the public? Are there any exceptions?
It is a general principle under Egyptian law that court hearings are open to the public. However, upon the request of either of the parties to the claim or the presiding judge, the hearings maybe confidential.
While previous judgements may be accessed by the general public, court documents presented by either party are confidential and will be accessed only if the requesting party has the authority to do so, for example through a power of attorney.
What, if any, are the relevant limitation periods in your jurisdiction?
The limitation period varies depending on the nature of the disputed claim. Generally, the limitation period for filing a civil case is fifteen years after the elapse of the disputed obligation, while the period for filing a commercial case is seven years. However, there are certain exceptions to the general rule in which the limitation period may vary, for example taxes related claims have a limitation period of five years.
What, if any, are the pre-action conduct requirements in your jurisdiction and what, if any, are the consequences of non-compliance?
The plaintiff should first notify the defendant of its intention to commence proceedings before the courts. The case writ should serve as a notice to the other party of such intention.
If no proper notification takes place and all procedural requirements are not met, the court may refuse to review the claim if the plaintiff has impeded upon proper proceedings being met.
How are commercial proceedings commenced? Is service necessary and, if so, is this done by the court (or its agent) or by the parties?
To commence commercial proceedings before the courts, the plaintiff submits a case writ to the court (the case writ includes the plaintiff’s name, domicile and legal representative as well as the defendant’s name and domicile). The court bailiff department is responsible to serve a notice to the defendant by notifying the defendant with the case writ.
How does the court determine whether it has jurisdiction over a claim?
Egyptian courts determine matters of jurisdiction by virtue of judgment that is issued either at the end of the case or at a preliminary stage, as such, matters of jurisdiction are reviewed with the case a whole. It is very common that parties disagree on jurisdictional issues and exchange memorials thereon.
The Egyptian court determines whether it has jurisdiction depending on a number of factors and provisions set out the Egyptian Civil and Commercial Procedures Law no. 13 for the year 1968. As a general rule Egyptian courts have jurisdiction if any of the parties is an Egyptian national. Another example would be that Egyptian courts have jurisdiction if the defendant is an Egyptian resident or has an Egyptian domicile. Further, Egypt has exclusive jurisdiction over disputes regarding any property situated in Egypt.
It should be noted that Egyptian courts usually deem that they have jurisdiction over disputed claims, unless either party provides evidence to the contrary. The Egyptian courts can also have jurisdiction over a claim even if such claim is subject to a foreign law.
How does the court determine what law will apply to the claims?
Generally, the court applies Egyptian Law to the disputed claims, however Egyptian Law stipulates a set of rules to determine the applicable law to the disputed claims, if it deems that Egyptian law is not applicable to the disputed claims. For example, the Egyptian law stipulates that the law governing the formalities of a contract may be the law where the contract was concluded, further it stipulates that the contract may be governed by the law that governs the substantive matters in the contract.
In what circumstances, if any, can claims be disposed of without a full trial?
Generally, disputed claims are only resolved through a trial (usually there is more than one hearing), but in some cases the parties may amicably resolve the dispute through reconciliation. The parties may decide to reconcile during the litigation procedure and the claims may be disposed without a full trail.
Further, summary judgment for dismissal is very rare, and only available if the plaintiff fails to submit any evidence. If the claimant fails to attend any hearing, in practice, the case is struck out. However, the case can be renewed within 60 days. If the case is struck out again, it will be deemed to be null and void from the beginning.
What, if any, are the main types of interim remedies available in your jurisdiction?
Certain types of interim remedies are available to the plaintiffs and defendants. For the plaintiffs, certain interim remedies are available such as the request for seizure/attachment on the defendant’s possessions, file for custodianship over the disputed object, and file for any request related to the disputed claim. Defendants on the other hand could file enforcement contestation, the cessation of enforcement or if any of the defendant’s assets are seized, the defendant could file a request to remove the seizure. Generally, the law provides for a wide scope of interim measures that may be taken depending on the nature of the case.
After a claim has been commenced, what written documents must (or can) the parties submit and what is the usual timetable?
Alongside the case writ, the plaintiff may submit additional documentation, including a memorandum explaining the disputed claim, as well as originals of any supporting documents. Once the defendant is served, the defendant usually submits a defence memo, alongside all of its supporting documents. The timeframe varies depending on the court and its workload. In a civil and commercial court, the timeframe for a case would be from one to three years, while in economic courts may take from one to two years, during which the parties may be asked to submit additional documentation. If the documentation submitted is in a foreign language, then the timeframe will prolong as such documents must be officially translated by the court.
What, if any, are the rules for disclosure of documents? Are there any exceptions (e.g. on grounds of privilege, confidentiality or public interest)?
There is no obligation on any of the parties to disclose or produce documents unless ordered by the court or mandated by law, in circumstances stipulated under the Egyptian Evidentiary Law no. 25 for the year 1968.
There is no production of document stage within the trial wherein the parties may request the court to order the opposing party to produce certain documents. A party may request documentation from the other party at any time during the proceedings, however, it is up to the sole discretion of the judge whether to grant the request or not.
It should be noted, that while Egyptian law does not regulate privileged documentation, there are general provisions stipulating that personal documentation of any of the parties does not have to be produced.
How is witness evidence dealt with in commercial litigation in your jurisdiction (and in particular, do witnesses give oral and/or written evidence and what, if any, are the rules on cross-examination)? Are depositions permitted?
Pursuant to the Egyptian Evidence Law no.25 for the year 1968, witness testimony is allowed. In civil and commercial proceedings, it is rare for a witness to give oral testimony, as the evidence provided to the court is usually written. The presiding judge may if he sees the need or based on the request of the parties depose the witness or allow the parties to question the witness, though in practice cross-exemption rarely happens.
In civil and commercial cases, written documents are the main form of evidence.
Is expert evidence permitted and how is it dealt with? Is the expert appointed by the court or the parties and what duties do they owe?
Expert evidence is permitted, though it is non-binding to the court. While Egyptian law stipulates that parties may appoint the expert, it is rare that parties appoint the expert as the expert is usually court appointed. The expert is expected to draft a report including all of his findings and his expert opinion, supported by all the evidence. The court experts are usually quantum or technical experts and do not make decisions on the law.
Can final and interim decisions be appealed? If so, to which court(s) and within what timescale?
Decisions in Egypt are subject to appeal. Appeals from the first instance are filed before the court of appeal within 40 days from the date of the issuance of the first instance judgment. While summary proceeding decisions are challenged within fifteen days from the issuance of the decision.
Further challenges can be made before the Court of Cassation. A court of appeal’s judgment is subject to challenge before the Court of Cassation within sixty days from the date of issuance of the appeal decision.
The court of appeal takes from 1-3 years to issue a decision.
The Court of Cassation takes from 2-3 years to issue a judgment.
What are the rules governing enforcement of foreign judgments in your jurisdiction?
Foreign judgments and arbitral awards are not automatically enforceable in Egypt. A number of procedures and actions must be implemented in order for foreign judgments and arbitral awards to be enforceable in Egypt.
Regarding enforcement of foreign judgments, they are not granted automatic recognition in Egypt, unless a bilateral/multilateral recognition treaty exist and in effect between Egypt and the country from which the judgement has been rendered. Egyptian Civil and Commercial Procedures Law Now. 13 for the year 1968 governs the recognition and enforcement of foreign judgements in Egypt, alongside any bilateral treaty ratified by Egypt, pursuant to Article 297 of such law, in order for a foreign judgment to be enforceable in Egypt, an exequatur (i.e. order of enforcement and execution) has to be granted by the competent court.
Generally, the chances of successfully enforcing foreign judgments in Egypt are significantly diminished in the absence of bilateral and/or multilateral treaties regulating the enforcement of court judgments.
With regard to arbitral awards, Egypt is a signatory of the 1958 New York convention on the Recognition and Enforcement of Foreign Arbitral Awards. Thus, the New York convention should grant the foreign arbitral award a domestic recognition in Egypt, however, the award would still need to satisfy certain requisites in order to be enforceable according to Egyptian Arbitration Law No. 27 for the year 1994.
Can the costs of litigation (e.g. court costs, as well as the parties’ costs of instructing lawyers, experts and other professionals) be recovered from the other side?
The losing party to the claim bears the costs related to the claim. It should be noted that while the losing party fully bears the court costs, the opposing party’s lawyer fees paid by the losing party are usually a nominal and would not represent the real value of the lawyer’s fees.
On the other hand, the expert fees for referral requested by one of the parties are usually paid by the requesting party. Fees for experts appointed at the court's initiative must usually be divided equally between the parties.
What, if any, are the collective redress (e.g. class action) mechanisms in your jurisdiction?
There are no class action suits in Egypt, however more than one plaintiff may join and raise a joint claim against a single defendant.
What, if any, are the mechanism for joining third parties to ongoing proceedings and/or consolidating two sets of proceedings in your jurisdiction?
A third party may join the procedures based on the request of the parties and the court, in accordance with the usual proceeding to filing a case. Pursuant to Egyptian law, parties may consolidate two sets of proceedings if the parties, object and the cause of action are the same.
Are third parties allowed to fund litigation? If so, are there any restrictions on this and can third party funders be made liable for the costs incurred by the other side?
While there are no regulations preventing third parties from funding the litigation, it is very rare for third parties to fund litigation in Egypt. Third parties are not liable for any costs incurred by the other side.
What is the main advantage and the main disadvantage of litigating international commercial disputes in your jurisdiction?
The advantages to litigating international commercial disputes, is that the Egyptian law is extremely comprehensive, accordingly, parties usually are able to expect the outcome, that there are many channels of challenging a judgment and alternative methods of resolving disputes in Egypt. The disadvantages of litigating international commercial disputes is that the timeframe is not set and thus the proceedings may take longer than expected, and that the proceedings are usually bureaucratic. However, the Economic Courts provide a speedy and more efficient specialized alternatives to the normal courts.
What is the most likely growth area for disputes in your jurisdiction for the next 5 years?
The arbitration sector in Egypt is growing rapidly as well as the alternative methods of resolution as most parties tend to avoid litigation.
Will be the impact of technology on commercial litigation in your jurisdiction in the next 5 years?
Technology has impacted the litigation process rapidly as now the Egyptian authorities allow electronic signatures to be implemented, and there are decrees that may be implemented in the future that allow the parties to file for a case online. Moreover, the Egyptian courts started having electronic data base for all cases and the Court of Cassation judgments are also available through the internet.