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Groups announce minimum constitutional demands

Document comes as Constituent Assembly is nearly done with its work

A group of political and civil society movements and individuals released on Monday a document listing their minimum constitutional demands in 18 different fields. (DNE File Photo)
A group of political and civil society movements and individuals released on Monday a document listing their minimum constitutional demands in 18 different fields.
(DNE File Photo)

A group of political and civil society movements and individuals released on Monday a document listing their minimum constitutional demands in 18 different fields.

The groups described their document as “representative of the minimum demands of the 2011 revolution”. It comes after Mohamed Salmawy, spokesman of the 50-member Constituent Assembly tasked with amending the 2012 constitution, announced that the assembly is done with over 75% of the constitution.

The document was prepared by 18 different groups, and signed by 14 movements as well as 40 public and political figures. Signatory groups included the Egyptian Initiative for Personal Rights, the Egyptian Centre for Economic and Social Rights, the No Military Trials for Civilians movement, the Misr Al-Qawia (Strong Egypt) Party and the Revolutionary Front.

The signatories called for defining torture in the constitution, based on the1984 United Nations Convention against Torture’s definition.

Salmawy earlier announced that Article 37 of the amended constitution is planned to be divided into two separate articles: one handling dignity and the other handling torture. The spokesman added that the assembly is adding a transitional article to define torture.

The document also called for other rights for detainees. It demanded that the reason for detention be given by a judge and that detention facilities be monitored by the Ministry of Justice. It also called for abiding by international standards in defining basic human rights.

The assembly had passed Article 39, which states that personal freedom is preserved unless the citizen is caught red-handed. The article prohibits arresting, searching or detaining citizens without a court order which warrants an investigation. It states that the detainee should be immediately notified of the reason for his detention and allowed to contact his family and lawyer. It added that the detainee should be referred to investigation within 24 hours of his arrest and should only be investigated or tried in the presence of his lawyer.

The signatories also called for the independence of the Forensics Authority from the Ministry of Justice.

The document also called for parliamentary oversight of the military institution and the ability issue laws regarding it. It also called for the constitution to state that the National Defence Council is an advisory body without any executive, legislative, or supervisory powers.

The signatories also demanded the omission of Article 195 from the 2012 constitution which states that the Minister of Defence also acts as the general commander of the Armed Forces, adding that this could politicise the military institution.

The document signatories urged the Constituent Assembly to completely ban military trials for civilians “without exception”. They also called for cancelling all military verdicts which civilians received since January 2011 and order retrials at civilian courts. Those who were implicated in violations against “military trials’ victims” must be interrogated and victims must receive apologies and other compensations, the document added.

The Constituent Assembly is yet to pass the constitutional articles addressing the army and military trials. Salmawy said on Sunday: “I believe there is consensus among the assembly members on banning military trials for civilians except in very limited cases. Such cases will be defined during the assembly’s future discussions.”

Article 198 of the 2012 constitution banned the trials except in cases which “harm” the armed forces.

The groups and individuals also stressed in the constitutional demands document the importance of addressing transitional justice within the constitution. They called for “unraveling the truth about those who killed, robbed and violated the rights of Egyptians since 1981 and until a new president is elected,” as well as trying those responsible for such crimes and politically disenfranchising them.

The signatory groups called for obliging the state to provide free flow of information and criminalise the refusal to disclose information. They also called against “involving national security [in the matter] without a clear definition.”

The Constituent Assembly had added a clause to Article 50 of the 2012 constitution which holds the state responsible for protecting citizens’ right to use all forms of communication. It also passed Article 52, which leaves room for imposing censorship in times of war or in times of preparation for war.

The groups demanded in their document granting local councils wider jurisdiction as well as electing governors devising a mechanism to allow local councils to withdraw confidence in governors and local administrations.

Salmawy had announced on Sunday that the article addressing governorates in the constitution states they would function away from centralisation, yet left the mechanism of choosing governors up to the laws.

The judicial authority was also addressed in the document. Signatories demanded the independence of the authority’s budget from that of the executive authority. It also demanded that the Prosecutor General be elected by the Supreme Judicial Council and that heads of other judicial bodies are elected by the bodies’ general assemblies.

The signatories said they would monitor the performance of the Constituent Assembly and evaluate the draft constitution it finally produces.

Salmawy said on Tuesday that the assembly would be done with drafting and preliminarily passing articles this week. They are expected to begin officially voting on articles next Sunday. The assembly is due to be done with the constitution on 3 December.

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