Egypt constitution threatens rights

2012-10-08 21:40
Tahrir Square, the focal point of Egyptian uprising, in Cairo, Egypt.(Amr Nabil, AP)

Tahrir Square, the focal point of Egyptian uprising, in Cairo, Egypt.(Amr Nabil, AP)

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Cairo - A draft Egyptian constitution contains articles that could pose a serious threat to basic human rights in post-Mubarak Egypt, Human Rights Watch said on Monday.

A 100-strong panel picked in June and headed by senior judge Hossam al-Ghariani has been tasked with drafting the new constitution, after the old charter was suspended following the 2011 uprising which toppled Hosni Mubarak.

"The Constituent Assembly has a landmark opportunity to lay the groundwork for respecting human rights in tomorrow's Egypt," said Nadim Houry, deputy director of the Middle East and North Africa division at Human Rights Watch.

"But its current draft fails to meet that standard because of vague language or limitations that destroy the essence of many rights."

While the draft upholds some civil, political, social and economic rights, "other key provisions are inconsistent with international human rights standards and would pose a serious threat to the future of human rights in Egypt," the New York-based rights group said.

It said Article 5 of the draft failed to ban torture, Article 36 threatened equality between men and women, while Article 9 - still under negotiation - "would amount to a serious threat to freedom of speech and religion".

The 2011 uprising that ousted Mubarak and changed the course of the Arab world's most populous nation was largely driven by popular anger at police impunity.

"The failure to fully prohibit torture is especially surprising given the fact that anger against police abuse played a central role in the January 2011 uprising," HRW said.

Shari'ah rules

Another cause for concern was Article 36 which has already prompted several demonstrations by women's rights activists.

The article says the state shall ensure equality between men and women as long is it does not contradict "the rulings of Islamic Shari'ah."

It also says that a woman will "reconcile between her duties toward the family and her work in society," according to the draft reviewed by HRW.

"This provision is inconsistent with the provision in the same chapter that prohibits discrimination on the grounds of sex," the rights watchdog said.

Ghariani has said that the constitution was expected to be ready by November, after which it will be put to a national referendum.

But rights groups and secular political activists say they fear the Islamists, who dominate the constituent assembly, will use their grassroots influence and organisational skills to push for a yes vote.

Read more on:    egypt  |  north africa  |  human rights
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