Egypt votes “yes” to a constitution with clear shortcomings regarding human rights and fundamental freedoms

While no official results have been announced yet, according to state media more than 90 per cent of referendum voters in Egypt voted “yes” to a new constitution that was drafted by Egypt’s military-backed government, in power since the ousting of Islamist President Mohamed Morsi in July 2013.

The new version explicitly acknowledges the rights and liberties enshrined in international conventions ratified by Egypt and binding on the State. The provisions and language in the amended chapter on rights and liberties are an improvement on the 2012 constitution. Nevertheless the Cairo Institute for Human Rights Studies, an important SOLIDAR partner in the cooperation network “Social Justice in the Middle East and North Africa”, regrets that the 2013 draft constitution does not provide for a political system that will guarantee and protect fundamental rights and freedoms. The new constitution leaves the interpretation of several of its articles to statutory law and recognises arbitrary interventions by the State security apparatus, which leaves a severe threat hanging over the right to freedom of association and peaceful assembly and the respect of human rights in general. In addition, it preserves several problematic articles from the now suspended 2012 constitution, including one legalising military trials for civilians.

Just one month ago, the headquarters of another Egyptian SOLIDAR partner within the Social Justice network, the Egyptian Centre for Economic and Social Rights (ECESR), was raided by the police. Five of the staff members arrested were released the next morning, while one was sentenced to three years in prison and a large fine, charged with calling for a demonstration without prior security notice. The ECESR staff member, alongside others, was prosecuted under the new restrictive Egyptian association law. ECESR is currently appealing the ruling.

Read the detailed analysis of the new Constitution by CIHRS here.