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Now that the constitution has been approved the Panther Express asked two AIS students to highlight some of the articles that they liked and disliked from the Egyptian constitution: 

As you all know the time finally came to vote for the new and improved Egyptian Constitution.  On January 14 and 15, the nationwide referendum took place where all Egyptians had the chance to vote for the constitution drafted by the 50-member-committee. The funny thing is that the constitution passed by an amazing 98.1% acceptance rate.

At first the drafted constitution had been met with several mixed public reactions since it’s release. With no surprise the Muslim Brotherhood had already rejected the constitution and immediately and called on its supporters to boycott the referendum. While the rest of the Egyptians were split by two concerns, one of which argue that the constitution is not good enough and ignores to address key issues such as women’s rights, and limits fundamental freedoms; and the others don’t care as much about the matter of the constitution but the safety of the country. They believe that by voting NO for the constitution they are empowering the Muslim brotherhood and encouraging them to continue with their absurd behaviour, and by voting YES they are allowing the country to end it’s transitional period and begin to stabilize economically and politically.

When I first heard that the 2012 constitution was being amended, as an Egyptian I was proud to feel that my country is moving past it’s catastrophic days. But once I found out who was assigned the hefty task I began to worry. Is it not ironic how the constitution is advertised to the public as “The first constitution written by the Egyptian people” while in fact the constitutional process was flawed from the start since the committee overseeing it was mostly comprised of hand-picked members whom were all selected by Adly Mansour, and left to be led by Amr Moussa. This committee is now recognized as the 50-member-committee or Lagnet el Khamseen.

What’s disappointing about the selection of the committee is simply a matter of diversity, for example they selected only four women to represent the entire feminine population of Egypt yet they still call it equality when 92% of the votes are entitled to men. Egyptians have waited three years for this time to come, so why not do it right? It’s not understood why everything is so rushed; stability will be achieved once the time is right.Screen Shot 2014-01-20 at 7.58.26 PM

Concerning the amount of propaganda placed on advertising this constitution was tremendous. NGOs such as Sidi Abdel Salam Wahdan al-Shazly went to the extent of using orphaned children from Dar al-Rady association for political gain. The children were asked to chant political slogans and raise photos of Defense Minister Abdel Fattah al-Sisi. This happens to be one of the many ways that the constitution was promoted, billboards were set up all over the city streets stating, “Participation in the constitution is a ‘YES’ to the 25 January and 30 June revolutions.” with YES highlighted in green. But did anyone notice that there were no billboards advertising the public to vote against the constitution? Democracy International, the largest international organization missions monitoring Egypt’s constitutional referendum, expressed “serious concerns” regarding the political atmosphere that surrounded the referendum. The organization mentioned that there was a high of political opposition mass arrest prior to the referendum, meaning the interim government didn’t leave much chance for those who opposed to challenge the constitution. Many activists were detained simply for holding campaign literature urging a “no” vote on the referendum.

A democratic transition should be characterized by an expansion of freedoms, but Egyptians have seen substantial restrictions on the exercise of their democratic rights,”  – Eric Bjornlund, DI’s president and head of the observation mission in Egypt.

With regards to the new constitution concerning the rights and freedoms of individuals, in Article 43 of the 2012 constitution, freedom of belief was made an “inviolable right,” but the state was obliged to promise the freedom of practicing religious rituals to all and to create houses of worship for the three celestial (Abrahamic) religions; Judaism, Christianity and Islam. So instead of developing the article further in the new draft, it actually became more restrictive. Now Article 64 makes freedom of belief “absolute,” but restricts both the freedom of practicing religious rituals and the establishing of houses of worship to the followers of Abrahamic religions as regulated by the law. This is such a shame since everyone should respect and acknowledge every other religion. By the commandment of the Qur’an and the Prophet Mohammed (SAW) Muslims must respect and cooperate with other faiths for the sake of humanity, by means to accept them all and not to discriminate them.

Moving on to another disappointing article of the newly drafted constitution, article 204 allows military trials of civilians, stating that “It is not permissible for civilians to stand military trials except in crimes that represent direct assault on military establishment, the armed forces’ camps and the like, or the military areas or its border zones, its equipment, vehicles, weapons, ammunitions, documents, military secrets, public funds, factories, or crimes related to conscription or crimes that constitute a direct assault against its officers and personnel while performing their work.”  Since January 25th there were many activists campaigning against the military trial of civilians but it was ignored in the 2012 constitution. Now, the 2013 constitution further describes what bases the civilians will be militarily trialed on. What most people don’t realize is that the conditions of the military trials are quite harsh in comparison to the regular civilian trials. The difference between civilian trials and military is as follows:

Military Trials Civilian Trials
Trial location In a military court house(- Which forbids civilians, meaning no civil lawyer will be present to support the victim) At a regular court house
Judges Officer Civilian
Defense time 2-3 minutes 15 min + an additional 5 min if needed
Laws Created to settle the disputes of the military concerning issues such as: not obeying orders, wars, disturbance etc. Thus the punishments are designed to suit the lives of officers and soldiers. The military judiciary is part of the ministry of defense, and there is a system that allows the ratification of the final judgment to be withdraw or change the verdict as the judge pleases. Created to settle the disputes of civilians concerning issues such as: divorce, murder, theft, ethics etc. Thus the punishments are designed to suit the lives of civilians, regardless of their affiliations and guarantees their independence and impartiality.

 

I really do hope people understand what this country is worth, because it deserves a lot better than this. Rushing important steps such as amending the constitution, and handing over a great deal of our power to the military won’t get this country to stabilize any time sooner. If anything, you’ll watch it fall down faster than the time it took to pick it up.

A constitution drafted by hand picked puppets have no value, its propaganda at it’s finest. Politics and fraud forced on people don’t create freedom, justice, security, and peace. Isn’t this what got the revolution to begin in the first place, by fooling the public and letting them believe that those who hold their fate have their best interest in mind.

Truth its, There won’t be a huge improvement in the way government works and the way services are delivered, and that is a setback for democracy. So I believe a thank you to the presidency is in order, for bringing us back to where we started.

By Salma Hossam

 

Bibliography

http://english.alarabiya.net/en/perspective/analysis/2013/12/16/Egypt-s-new-constitution-gets-mixed-reaction.html

http://www.usatoday.com/story/news/world/2013/01/11/egypt-constitution-women-rights/1784135/

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Constitution_of_Egypt

http://www.thehindu.com/news/international/world/egypts-army-chief-calls-for-massive-turnout-in-constitution-vote/article5566743.ece

http://www.voanews.com/content/panel-approves-new-egyptian-draft-constitution/1801540.html

http://english.ahram.org.eg/NewsContent/1/0/90962/Egypt/0/Egypt-eases-voting-restrictions-for-constitution-r.aspx

http://english.ahram.org.eg/NewsContent/4/0/83387/Opinion/-Egypts-constitution-Warning-to-the-Committee-of-.aspx

http://www.egyptindependent.com//news/ngo-used-orphans-political-gain

http://www.egyptindependent.com//news/democracy-international-expresses-serious-concerns-over-referendum

http://www.behance.net/gallery/NoMilTrials-/11344159

http://www.dailynewsegypt.com/2013/12/02/draft-constitution-finalised/

http://english.ahram.org.eg/News/88582.aspx