On April 8, 2016, the Egyptian government announced the signing of a “Convention of Demarcation of the Maritime Border” with Saudi Arabia (Convention). Under the Convention, the Red Sea Islands of Tiran and Sanafir lay in Saudi territory. The move was perceived by foreign and domestic observers as the abandonment by Egypt of a long-held territorial and maritime claim in exchange for a loan from Saudi Arabia, and it was challenged before the Egyptian courts. On January 16, 2017, the Egyptian Supreme Administrative Court rendered a judgment annulling the act of cession of the islands on the basis of the Egyptian people's entitlement over them (Judgment). The Judgment triggered a domestic judicial saga, which only ended in 2018. Aside from the intriguing political dimensions of this incident, the Judgment, while interpreting the Egyptian Constitution of 2014, sheds light on some fundamental aspects of international law, namely: the identity of the “holder” of sovereignty and its relations with the “delegatee,” i.e., the government; the contribution of human rights as an analytical frame for this issue; and the validity of a treaty concluded in violation of a state's treaty-making powers, a question for which there is limited practice.
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