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In Egypt's draft constitution, little sign of revolutionary ideals

A partial draft of Egypt's new constitution released yesterday has prompted warnings that it restricts rights such as freedom of expression and religion.

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The committee writing Egypt’s new constitution released a partial draft yesterday, requesting public feedback on a document that will lay out the role of government and which has become a focal point in a debate about the role of Islam in the state. 

But the draft omits two of the most contentious articles, leaving unclear the committee’s position on proposals to put a blasphemy ban in the constitution, as well as on calls to give clerics the responsibility to determine whether legislation abides by sharia, or Islamic law. 

The draft constitution has become the center of a bitter debate between Islamists and secular politicians, who say Islamists are using their newfound power to write an “Islamic constitution” that restricts rights. 

In a report released this week, Human Rights Watch said the document undermines rights of women and children and freedom of expression and religion.

“The draft constitution contains many loopholes that would allow future authorities to repress and limit basic rights and freedoms,” said Nadim Houry, deputy director of HRW’s Middle East and North Africa division, in a statement. “The Constituent Assembly should address those concerns before voting on the constitution.” 

The previous constitution, written in 1971, was suspended last year when military generals announced they were taking power after 18 days of massive protests forced former president Hosni Mubarak from power. The draft released yesterday would reduce the previously immense powers of the presidency, instead striking more of a balance between the executive and the parliament. It includes presidential term limits, but does not yet include an article laying out the level of civilian oversight of the military. 

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