Prohibiting religious insults in the constitution could make overturning such verdicts less likely. Historically, the Supreme Constitutional Court has been “quite good” on some human rights issues, using the constitution as justification to overturn lower court rulings that violated citizens' rights, says Ms. Morayef.
“If it’s embedded in the constitution it will take away another tool that you had in the human rights community,” she says.
Citizens can bring cases
Egyptian daily Al Masry Al Youm reported last week that the proposed article for the new constitution would ban insulting God, “prophets of God, Prophet Mohamed's wives, the righteous caliphs and the prophet's companions." Mr. Bakkar of the Nour Party said that he expects the assembly to accept the article, and that the Muslim Brotherhood’s Freedom and Justice Party (FJP), Egypt's leading party, has indicated it will not oppose it.
Amr Gharbeia, director of the civil liberties program at EIPR, who has viewed the draft, says it poses further problems because it puts the right to bring cases on this basis in the hands of private citizens, not the public prosecutor.
A similar law that allowed individuals to bring cases against anyone they accused of denigrating religion was changed in 1996, after a prosecution forced liberal Quranic scholar Nasr Hamed Abu Zaid into exile. A group of lawyers offended by his work brought a case against him that ended with a court declaring him an apostate. A court subsequently ordered him to divorce his wife because under Islamic law a Muslim woman cannot marry a non-Muslim man.