CAIRO, Egypt, October 10, 2012 - On Wednesday October 10th, 2012 the Constituent Assembly will present the new draft of the constitution.
The panel, consisting of 100 members and headed by Senior Judge Hossam Al Ghariani, was tasked with writing a new constitution after the old one was cancelled last year immediately after the revolution that ousted dictator Hosni Mubarak.
The drafting of a new constitution is considered the greatest challenge in Post Mubarak Egypt. Egyptians hoped this constitution would open a new phase in their history, shaping a society that protects rights and guarantees all Egyptians a decent life. Unfortunately, due to the disputes, lack of communication between different members of the committee, liberal parties rejected the draft. Several members of the panel withdrew from the committee after accusing Islamists of monopolizing the process.
In the eyes of many secular and liberal Egyptians, the current draft constitution fails to meet the standard of guaranteeing human rights in the country. Further complicating the situation is a pending court case, which could nullify the document because it fails to represent Egypt’s cultural diversity.
The official announcement by Mohamed El Beltagy, head of the assembly’s proposals committee, that the drafted articles will be unveiled at a Press conference on Wednesday October 10th,2012 failed to ease the people’s concern regarding several articles.
Human Rights Watch Deputy Director of Middle East and North Africa Nadim Haroun said that:
“The current draft fails to meet the standard of human rights because of vague language and limitations that destroys the essence of many rights”. In spite of the fact that the draft upholds some civil, political, social and economic rights yet key provisions are inconsistent with international human rights standard and would cause serious threat to the future of human rights in Egypt.“ Several examples were given. For example, article 5 failed to ban torture, while article 36 threatened equality between men and women. Article 9, which is still in negotiation, does not yet guarantee freedom of speech and religion. This article specifically deals with blasphemy and states that the divine being is protected, and any criticism thereof is prohibited as is criticism of the prophets of god and all of his messengers, the mothers of the faithful and the rightly guided Caliphs.
Another article that bans trafficking women and children was removed due to pressure from Salafists, hard line conservative Muslims. Salafists are also pressuring a discussion on lowering the legal age of marriage, which is currently 18, to 16 or even 9. Liberal and secular parties strongly opposed the moves. They harshly criticized the members of the committee, saying they should not yield to such pressures to exclude language criminalizing trafficking of women and children.
Human Rights Watch, as well as secular parties in Egypt, objected another article which proposes to limit the construction of places of worship to Muslims, Christians and Jews since it excludes minorities like Bahia’s
The uncertainly over the constitution will continue after the committee unveils the draft. Egyptians are waiting patiently for their turn to comment on the constitution in a referendum, which will give them the right to express their views on the post-Mubarak future of Egypt.
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