Egyptian Organization for Human Rights (Cairo)

25 July 2013

Egypt: Legal Experts Demand a New Constitution for the Country Instead of Redrafting the 2012 Constitution

press release

Legal experts as well as human rights fighters met yesterday, July 24, 2013 in a meeting titled "The Egyptian Constitution after June 30″ at the Egyptian Organization for Human Rights (EOHR) headquarters. The meeting was aimed at discussing the 2012 Constitution which is put on hold, and to see whether it would be better to redraft some of its articles or to rewrite the whole constitution. They also discussed new articles that should be added in a new constitution after what was later called the Second Uprising of Egypt in June 30.

These experts believed that the 2012 constitution, which was issued under the Muslim Brotherhood does not represent the twenty first century views, and agreed that it would be of vital importance to issue a new constitution instead of redrafting the 2012 constitution.

The experts agreed on the importance of issuing a new constitution for Egypt for the following reasons:

Firstly: The June 30 Uprising led to the termination of the 2012 constitution which was announced by the Commander in Chief of the Armed Forces of Egypt, Abd ElFatah El Sisi. On July 3rd, El Sisi also announced the resignation President Mohamed Morsi and the instatement of the head of the Supreme Constitutional Court, Adly Mansour, as president of Egypt.

Secondly: The number of articles that need to be redrafted exceeds 3.

Thirdly: The 2012 constitution represented a Semi-Islamic country, which goes against the concept of a civil democratic state which the Egyptian population has been trying to reach for 200 years.

Fourthly: The constitution of 2012 was written in vague rhetoric which lacked legal expertise which failed to live up to the constitutional standards that required laws to be precise, leaving no room for confusion.

Fifthly: The wording of the constitutional articles was very moralistic, which decreased the authority

Accordingly, participants of the conference suggested a set of principles to be included in the new Constitution, as follows:

- The new constitution should stipulate that the international conventions of human rights are part of the Egyptian legislation, which was something that was completely disregarded in the 2012 constitution.

The experts refered to the new Moroccan Constitution that was established in 2011 and the Sudanese one that was established in 2005. Both constitutions included, and in some cases, ratified many articles in International Bill and Covenants of Human Rights. That gave these agreements constitutional value. In the 2011 Moroccan Constitution, the text of Chapter 19 of Part II, "Freedoms and Political Rights", of the Constitution, stated "Men and women enjoy - equally - rights and civil liberties, political, economic, social, cultural, environmental, included in this section of the Constitution, as well as in the agreements and international conventions, as ratified by Morocco, all within the scope of the provisions of the Constitution and the constants of the Kingdom and its laws... ".

The text of the Interim Sudanese Constitution, in Part II (Bill of Rights), Article no. 3 stipulates that "All rights and freedoms enshrined in international conventions and treaties and international covenants on human rights, ratified by the Republic of the Sudan is an integral part of this document". This approach broadens the circle of rights and freedom in the Constitution, giving the Constitution high respectable profile, as it guarantees the internationally recognized rights as well as ensures individual rights and freedoms that are the most important elements of the civil state. Its primary goal is to protect the individual from arbitrariness of public authorities and aggression on the rights because the principle is found only to ensure that individual freedoms and public rights of the individual, and when the individual rights and freedoms disappear we will be in a police state that meant the absence of the state of law.

- Establishment of the state on the rules and principles of citizenship as part of public rights and freedoms offers protection for the state's public and private freedoms, ensures justice, equality and equal opportunities for all citizens without any distinction or discrimination and calling for pluralism.

- The text of the new constitution should also deal with the economic system of the country. It has to emphasize on an overall, sustainable and self-reliant development, which aims to achieve social welfare and meet the basic needs of the citizens. It has to encourage investment, protect competition and prevent monopolistic practices. Consumer protection, social justice and an equitable distribution of development dividend amongst citizens are essential. The remuneration should be linked to the production and a minimum and maximum wage determined. This section on economy is necessary, especially that the Constitution of 2012 completely omitted the economic field and did not pay attention to the economic and social rights. For example, about the social security, the text is short and does not ensure different types of insurance, as it does not guarantee a pension at least equal to the minimum wage. As about the commitment of the state concerning the right to housing, they refused to bind the state to provide the essential facilities as electricity, water and sanitation for housing. That is what any ordinary Egyptian citizen can see, suffering from poor living conditions, high unemployment situation, poverty and poor development conditions.

- The Shoura Council has to be removed. The legislative power has to be assigned to only one chamber, the House of Representatives; especially regarding the people opposition and its boycott of the last Shoura Council election. It has many powers that no other legislative assembly has in the world and has an economic cost for the state (reaching 4 billion Egyptian pounds for a single session of the Parliament).

- The text should states constitutional mechanisms to withdraw confidence from the President of the Republic in accordance with the will of the people. It has to strictly determine the competencies of the President; especially that the Constitution of 2012 gave him many powers. This last Constitution has undoubtedly founded an authoritarian rule, the President kept all competencies he had in the former regime with the Constitution of 1971. Moreover he got the new power to appoint the heads of regulatory agencies. He also appoints the Prime Minister, as well as the members of the Supreme Constitutional Court and the civil and military state employees. In addition, he sets the public policy of the state. It reduces the role of the government to be the "secretary" of the President.

- The text should ensure the promotion and protection of pluralism as part of human nature. It is a fundamental human value and a pillar of the Egyptian nation. The suppression of any minority in any way by a majority has to be strictly forbidden, whether its ideological, religious or ethnic characteristics, as its technical, literary or philosophical school. All form of discrimination must be prohibited, as well as the incitement to religious or racial hate.

- The vice-president should be appointed through elections in the same time that the President of the Republic.

- The new Constitution has to set guarantees for the independence of the judiciary, such as ensuring the independence of the Attorney General, which should be chosen by the Supreme Judicial Council. Likewise the members of the Supreme Constitutional Court should be appointed by its General Assembly.

- Emphasize on women's rights and equality between women and men.

- Emphasize on democracy and guarding the civility of the state, while keeping Sharia upper values of the religions as the main source of legislation.

- The election of Sheikh Al-Azhar as well as the Grand Mufti of Egypt.

- Cancel the Political Isolation law to leave room for everyone and give space to the citizens to choose whomever they want to elect in a democratic manner.

- The text on the decentralization of the local administration and the independence of local units. Appointment of the local authorities should comply with civil and administrative functions: according to the job description, duties and functions of the job, and organizing community-building partnerships to civil society organizations.

The committee decided on delegating a number of experts to redraft some articles of the 2012 Constitution, in order to present them to the Constitutional Assembly in case that the old constitution is to be redrafted instead of writing a new one altogether.

Hafez Abu Saada, Head of the Egyptian Organization for Human Rights stressed on the need to have a new constitution that would fix the flaws in the 2012 Constitution drafted by the Muslim brotherhood. Abu Seada called for a new draft of the constitution that would clearly draw the line between politics and religion. He also stressed on the importance that the constitution would ensure social and political justice through the participation of women and youth and that would enclose all the sects of the society and provide them with equal opportunities in the political and social life in general.

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