Egypt draft charter deflates hopes for change
27 November 2013, 18:59
Cairo - Egypt's
new constitution is still in the drafting stage but has already disappointed
rights groups and activists who had hoped it would curb the military's
wide-ranging powers and privileges.
particularly objected to a provision which would allow military trials for
civilians accused of "harming" the armed forces, which they fear
could be interpreted expansively to target protesters, journalists and
of the revised constitution through a referendum is the first milestone of a
road map to elected rule offered by Egypt's military-installed authorities, who
took office after the ouster of Islamist president Mohammed Morsi on 3 July.
toppled Morsi after millions of Egyptians called for his resignation, citing
among their chief grievances a 2012 constitutional decree that gave Egypt's
first democratically elected leader extraordinary powers, which he later
a new constitution was hastily drafted by a 100-member panel dominated by
Islamists and boycotted by liberals, and was approved in a December 2012 popular
referendum by a more than 60% margin.
military-installed authorities quickly suspended the constitution after his
overthrow and appointed a 50-member panel to draft a new one.
includes just two Islamists and no one from Morsi's Muslim Brotherhood
movement, which has been the target of a sweeping crackdown in recent months
that has seen hundreds of protesters killed by security forces.
has the revolution gone? It has not [been] transferred into the document,"
Joerg Fedtke, professor at Tulane University Law School in the US city of New
paradigm has not changed since 1971" - the year when Egypt adopted an
earlier constitution which undergirded decades of autocratic rule by President
Anwar Sadat and his successor Hosni Mubarak, who was toppled by a popular
uprising in February 2011.
text keeps the military's budget beyond any civilian scrutiny and also
stipulates that members of the military be tried only in military courts, even
in cases not related to their service, according to Heba Morayef, the Human
Rights Watch representative in Egypt.
revised constitution also says that members of general intelligence services
should also be tried by military" tribunals, said Morayef, calling it
"an extension of the immunity" given to law enforcement agencies in a
country with a long history of torture and police brutality.
The end of
such proceedings is the most divisive issue among members of the 50-member
10 of its members halted work to protest the arrest of demonstrators, including
prominent activists, who rallied against this article, forcing the committee to
suspend its work until the next morning.
only includes two representatives from the security forces, but the committee
has heard from members of the armed forces who strongly advocated retaining
provisions favouring the military.
military, and particularly its top general Abdel Fattah al-Sisi, has seen its
popularity soar in the wake of Morsi's ouster, and the crackdown on Islamists
has been allowed to proceed in part because of a spike in nationalist
have meanwhile been driven underground after the arrest of some 2 000 Morsi
supporters, including nearly the entire leadership of the Brotherhood, Egypt's
best-organised political movement.
dozens of filmmakers slammed their representative on the constitutional panel,
a noted movie director, for not objecting to the clause allowing military
tribunals for civilians, which was adopted in the first reading of the
intense debate inside the committee revolves around the place of religion in
the constitution, with Muslim and Christian representatives regularly
threatening to quit the panel.
text does not include section 219 of Morsi's constitution, which bolstered
conservative interpretations of Islam, although the new document retains
Islamic sharia law as the primary source of legislation, as did the Mubarak-era
Blouet, a French researcher who is studying the draft of the new constitution,
said removing articles that bolstered conservative interpretations of Islam is
only "symbolic, with no legal consequences".
approved by the panel, the revised text will be submitted to a public
referendum expected in the second half of January.