Rights groups concerned about constitutional declaration

Basil El-Dabh
4 Min Read
Interim president Adly Mansour (Khaled Desouki / AFP /Getty Images)
Egypt's interim president Adly Mansour. (Khaled Desouki / AFP /Getty Images)
Egypt’s interim president Adly Mansour.
(Khaled Desouki / AFP /Getty Images)

The constitutional declaration passed last week contains many concerning elements, according to Egyptian civil society organisations.

The Egyptian Initiative for Personal Rights (EIPR) criticised the declaration’s approach to freedom of belief, calling on interim president Adly Mansour to amend the second paragraph of Article 7, which only guarantees freedom of belief and worship to followers of the three “divine religions”. EIPR suggested replacing the paragraph with Article 46 of the 1971 constitution, which guarantees freedom of belief and worship, without reference to the restriction of such rights to only three religions.

The Egyptian Centre for Economic and Social Rights (ECESR) condemned the timing of the declaration, saying that that such a declaration should have been discussed with “all revolutionary, political and rights groups before being announced.”

“ECESR believes the majority of the text conveys an inclination towards a constitutional coup against the principles of the January 25th Revolution,” said the group in a statement.

ECESR said the constitutional declaration was prepared in the same manner that ousted president Mohamed Morsi’s November declaration was and came with “the same spirit and rules giving the president absolute powers.”

The statement also joined EIPR in criticising the religious aspect of the declaration, saying it “accommodates unjustified sectarian bias.” They claim that Article 219 of the suspended constitution, which was rejected by non-Islamist forces, was incorporated into Article 1 of the new declaration, which says that principles of Sharia, including general evidence, foundational rules, jurisprudence and “credible sources accepted in Sunni doctrines” are the principal source of legislation.

“The declaration did not state the principles of the doctrines of Christian or Jewish Egyptians,” added ECESR, saying that the text from the 1971 constitution stating that “the principles of Islamic Sharia are the main source of legislation,” should have sufficed for the declaration.

The statement also pointed out weaknesses in the declaration’s dealing with economic and social rights, saying it repeated the mistakes of previous constitutions by “re-constitutionalising indentured labour by clearing the way for forced labour through law.”

It also ignored rights such as housing, health, medical treatment, food, drink, linking wages with prices and the right to worker representation on corporate boards and in profit sharing.

ECESR, like EIPR, also criticised the restriction of religious rights to the three divine religions.

The group provided a long list of grievances with many articles of the declaration, including lack of concern with “the rights of the martyrs and wounded of the revolution,” giving the president too much power and the allowance of military trials for civilians.

ECESR also criticised Article 29 of the declaration which called for a 50-member committee to handle constitutional amendments. According to the article, the committee would consist of at least ten women and ten members of the youth. The group’s statement proposed the members of the assembly be raised to 100 and that at least one quarter would be made up of women and another quarter consisting of youth.

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