• The Red Sea islands of Tiran (foreground) and Sanafir (background) in the Strait of Tiran between Egypt’s Sinai Peninsula and Saudi Arabia
    The Red Sea islands of Tiran (foreground) and Sanafir (background) in the Strait of Tiran between Egypt’s Sinai Peninsula and Saudi Arabia

Egyptian activists have filed a lawsuit with the African Union against a controversial agreement that cedes the sovereignty of two Egyptian Red Sea islands to Saudi Arabia.

According to al-Araby al-Jadeed news website, Khaled Ali, a prominent Egyptian rights lawyer, filed the lawsuit with the African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights (ACHPR) in an effort to block the transfer of the Tiran and Sanafir islands to Saudi Arabia.

He urged the commission to oblige Egypt as a member of the African Union to unilaterally annul the deal and to implement a ruling by an Egyptian administrative court that declared the agreement null and unconstitutional.

The lawsuit is the first move by the deal’s opponents at the international level.

According to the lawsuit, the April 2016 agreement gave up Egyptian territory in violation of articles 1 and 151 of the Egyptian constitution.

The lawsuit aims to rekindle the case after Egypt’s Supreme Court on March 3 dismissed all outstanding legal challenges to the controversial deal.

Senior judicial sources in Egypt have said rulings by the ACHPR or other international commissions will not be legally binding as Cairo does not recognize the bodies’ jurisdiction.

Egyptian President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi claimed in April 2016 that the two islands of Tiran and Sanafir fell within the territorial waters of Saudi Arabia as stipulated in the border accord signed between Cairo and Riyadh earlier that month, triggering legal action to block the deal and unprecedented mass demonstrations.

Critics have accused the Egyptian president of surrendering Egyptian territory in return for Saudi money amid reports that Cairo was receiving 20 billion dollars in aid from Riyadh to relinquish the sovereignty of the uninhabited islands.

Egypt’s parliament backed the deal in June last year, and Sisi ratified it one week later.

Tiran and Sanafir lie about four kilometers apart in the Red Sea. They are situated in the narrow entrance to the Gulf of Aqaba leading to Jordan and the occupied Palestinian territories.


Mar 13, 2018 16:16 UTC