Formation of a national committee to develop proposals for the thorny issues in the new constitution

August 30th, 2012 by Editor

At the end of the Egyptian Organization of Human Rights’ conference “Toward a new and democratic constitution for the Egyptian people”, participants agreed on the formation of a national committee, including different political forces, parties and community without any exclusion to any force to discuss and develop proposals for the barbed constitutional articles such as the identity of the state, the form of the state, public rights and freedom, electoral system, judicial authority. Then they will be available publicly to be discussed with the members of the Constitutional Assembly. Also, they agreed to concert the efforts with the other relevant committees’ efforts in the same matter.

The forth session at the second day entitled “ public rights and freedoms in the new constitution” Mrs. Mona zuel Fakkar, a member of National Council for Human Rights, assured that there is an administrative court’s ruling about the basic principles and freedoms mentioned in the Egyptian constitutions that are related to each citizen. So there are some worries about the formation of the constitutional Assembly that was cancelled and reformed. And she asserted that the freedoms and rights are affected by this instability as it is considered one from the state’s principles, and there are legal fears toward the new constitution.

Dr. Zual-Fakkar added that there are strong reasons behind our fears of neglecting rights and freedoms in the new constitution. As we need clear articles provides for that.

The first part in the fourth session entitled” Mechanisms to ensure freedom of the media and the press in the Constitution “ Mr. Gamal Fahmy, director of the Egyptian Journalists Syndicate, pointed that no success can be achieved in media freedom  without  achieving other rights . He ensured that fighting media since Mubarak era still happens until now.

Mr. Fahmy described the constitutional Assembly as “distorted” and we could not have a constitution worthy to a great Egyptian people if it is continued like that. And he added that this is the first time in history for a community to write its constitution in the dark.

He asserted that there is a dominant culture by a certain class to the work of the Constituent Assembly to the Constitution, and this class does not want to release the media freedoms but want to go back to the era of Mubarak, calling for change immense arsenal and laws that restrict journalistic work and media freedoms in Egypt.

Mr. Hussen Abd –Al Ghany the previous manager of Al-Jazeera channel also said that there are fears out of distorted formation of the constitutional assembly especially the certain class that dominated the formation of the assembly within the absence of the constitutional law’s professors in this formation. 

Abd Al-Ghany called for clear article in the constitution includes full free of media without any laws, Along the lines of international treaties and conventions on human rights, and the abolition of all laws restricting media freedoms, according to pledges of President Mohamed Morsi and the government as well as to pass a law for the free flow of information and the formation of an independent national media consisted of independent figures.

Also called former director of Al-Jazeera called for benefit from the experience of democratic countries in this regard, and that there should be a guaranteed institutions for freedoms so that they are independent from the ruling party as in France and the United States.

The second axis of the fourth session entitled “women’s demands in the new constitution” Dr. Nehad Abu- Alkomsan, head of the Egyptian Center for Women’s Rights and a member of the National Council for Women, confirmed that there are many things to consider during drafting the new constitution until we reach a constitution supports principles and the main targets of the revolution and represents both man and woman and it should concentrates on the equality between men and women not only men, adding that the wide terminologies like citizens persons or individuals do not support the idea of equality.

constitution should also provides for articles treating cultural and legislative distortions that discrimination against women as the article that should provides for its representation at least   thirty percent  at all decision making positions and elected councils like parliament and local councils ,unions, syndicates … etc. Third, it should provide positive procedures that government should take to support equality between man and woman in all fields of life. Fourth, it should provide an article for right of have house especially for women that find themselves homeless after divorce or death of their husbands.  Fifth, the constitution must criminalize the discrimination between men and women.

Also Dr. Farida Al-Nakash, the director of al-Ahaly newspaper ensured that we need to concentrate on the freedoms chapter in the new constitution and not to be restricted by the law, she called for concentration on  economic and social rights considered that the main axis for public freedoms and rights.

Mrs. Al-Nakkash indicated that the articles related to women should comply with international covenants on human rights, and as stated in the Tagamoa Party’s draft of the constitution.  And she thinks that Egyptian society cannot stop political Islam against woman because actually it will take the same steps of Mubarak’s regime. She also pointed that the next few years will witness strong conflict resulted from that. So, we should prepare well. Political Islamists consider woman as a second creature and there should impose the domination on her for her safety. But she sees that this idea means “dodge” in order to impose domination on women. So, she called for women liberation movement and continues the struggle inside the family and outside it for raising the status of woman. 

Mr. Huseein Abd el Fattah, Secretary General of El Tagmoa Party, stated that fair elections are considered to be an important mechanism of Democracy. Since the WWII there was a trend of adopting party –list proportional representation, and Egypt has adopted the individual voting system since the 1923 Constitution. During the 80s a parallel voting system combining the individual and party- list proportional representation was adopted in Egypt in 1984 and then was condemned unconstitutional in 1987. Afterwards the elections of 1987 were held according to the law of individual voting system and then condemned unconstitutional in 1990. The last elections that also adopted a parallel voting system reserving two-thirds of seats for parties and the remaining one-third of seats to individuals were also unconstitutional through a verdict of the Constitutional Supreme Court.

Mr.Abd El Razak stated that the previous elections were unfair according to the international standards. The candidates used religion and money as means to win these elections. So civil society and international organizations must work together in monitoring the elections and to ensure its transparency.

From his side, Mr.Amr Hashem, the specialist in AL-Ahram Center for Political and Strategic Studies, suggested holding a wide scope social dialogue considering the choice of one of the voting systems whether the party-list proportional representation or the individual system taking into consideration the advantages and pitfalls of each system. He further added that what is important now is to determine the policies and mechanisms that won’t hinder any of the two systems if chosen. Rabea said that it’s important to give full scale freedom to the formation of political parties especially if the choice went in the direction of party-proportional representation, and to specify two different independent voting system for the two houses of parliament (People’s Assembly  and Shura Council)  if the latter is suppose to last within the political system. This means that party-list proportional representation can be applied to the People’s Assembly and individual voting system to Shura Council, or that elections for one of the houses can be held directly and the elections for the other house can be held indirectly and this to ensure the independence of the two houses of the Parliament from one another and to avoid the overlapping of their functions.

Rabea also suggested the creation of a high commission to monitor the elections which will lead to the creation of an independent supreme council to be specialized in elections observation; this council will look at the entire electoral process over a long period of time, whether it is parliamentary or presidential, local or constitutional referendums. The commission should have a wide-range of authorities toward the entire electoral process and in facing the authorities and the ministries, for the purpose of information availability which helps the commission in achieving its objectives. 

Mr. Abd El –Hameed Barakat, General Secretary of the new Labor Party, commentated that there were many positive aspects concerning the elections prior to the 25th January Revolution like the method of voting according to the National ID Number. He added that the Individual voting system hold within it many pitfalls like the usage of money and patronage to win a seat in the parliament, and he preferred the system of unconditional party-list proportional representation to the former one, in addition to the commitment with the specified amount of money fixed for the elections campaign and to specify a precise duration for court appeal.

Mr. Hazzem Mounir , member Of The National Council for Human Rights, affirmed that  it is possible to have a successful elections or expect its success through  the electoral system that is already used , but the problem is in the guarantees which reassures the integrity of the elections . That’s why there should be an electoral system that have Egyptian people’s consent and that is compatible with the international measurements. Mr.Mounir requested a statement in the new constitution regarding the right of civil society in monitoring the election in order to avoid electoral manipulation, beside a statement regarding the voting right of the Egyptian abroad. 

The sixth session was entitled “Protection of the judicial independence in the new constitution”. During the session, Mr.Saber Ammar Al-Amen,Assistant Secretary-General of the Arab Lawyers Union, opposed the formation of the Constituent Assembly because it’s dominated by one denomination. He added that the coming battle of the constitution will be a battle of all intellectuals.

Mr. Essam Aleslamboly,Attorney at Court of cassation, affirmed that framing the constitution is happening in the middle of hostile atmosphere toward the judicial constitutional jurisdiction, administrative justice and the media. Assuring that these unstable conditions are not satisfactory but it’ll lead to controversial issues in the determination of the Egyptian national identity.

Aleslamboly added that the issue of the Egyptian Judicial authority was obvious since its addition in the constitution of 1971, and the previous constitutions referred extensively to the legislative authority and matters of legislation on the expense of the judicial ones. Moreover, he affirmed the importance of encompassing Natural Justice only within the definition of the judicial authority apart from Military Justice which can’t be attributed to fair jurisdictions.

Aleslamboly asked for a special budget to be encompassed in the constitution for the judicial branch in order to manage its technical needs, and the Attorney general would be appointed according to special qualifications by Higher Judicial Council or the Court of Cassation.

At the end of the conference the participants exhorted that the new constitution should aim at transferring the authority from the system of “Patronage” to a system of “Institutional power” and that the Egyptian President should fulfill his promise of maintaining the balance of the Constituent Assembly. In addition, the constitution should give emphasis to the independence of Justice (Judicial authority) as well as all monitoring apparatuses, assert the principle of the compatibility of authority with responsibility, and specify the system of governance based on the principle of checks- and- balances. Also, the constitution should assert the identity of the state as a Civil-Democratic State, and to specify implicit requirements and mechanisms regarding the rights and freedoms especially intellectual freedom, freedom of expression and thought, freedom of religion and creed, freedom of fair trials, etc. They recommended that the voting system must be based on the unconditional party-list proportional representation for its advantage to maintain a fair and balanced representation to all civil and political powers, as well as asserting the independence of the judicial  control (constitutional monitoring) held by the Constitutional Supreme Court and the legality control held by the State Council which is considered to be a fortification to freedoms and rights and the necessity of protecting women’s rights concerning their freedoms and equality according to Human Rights’ Covenants and Laws.

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