The Arab Network for Human Rights Information (ANHRI) released a statement on Monday evening saying it was “deeply alarmed” by the decision to sentence a man to 80 lashes for being drunk. The sentence was handed down by the Matay Centre prosecutor in the Minya governorate, but was overturned by the Prosecutor General.
ANHRI said the sentence was based on the viewpoint of one individual who used a constitutional provision which states that Sharia is the main source of legislation as the basis for the sentence. ANHRI added that the text of the constitution lacked clarity in the application of Sharia.
Previous constitutions stated explicitly that only the penal code could define punishments. ANHRI said this is not the case with the current constitution, which allows for the judiciary to expand their understanding and interpretation of such provisions according to their design.
“The lack of clarity in the constitution is threatening the collapse of the guarantees of democracy,” ANHRI said in its statement. “Therefore we warn the judiciary not to use the constitution directly in regards to the application of punishment on citizens. What happened is an overlap between the judiciary and the legislative authority and effectively destroys the principle behind the separation of power.”
ANHRI said amendments must be made to the constitution to close such loopholes and to restore the constitution to its original role as a document which regulates the general framework of the state, not a direct source of punishment. As it currently stands the constitution can disrupt the work of authorities and subject citizens to random punishments at the discretion of the judiciary.