The articles dealing with rights and freedoms in the proposed constitution “mostly conform to international standards and human rights,” said 23 Egyptian civil society organisations on Wednesday.
The signatories to a joint statement listed 12 aspects of the constitution, which will be subject to public referendum next month, said that they approved of as they related to personal rights and freedoms saying the document guaranteed various economic and social rights, as well as acknowledged political, economic and social rights of women.
The statement also approved of articles in the proposed constitution relating to torture and rights of the detained and accused.
The group of organisations also approved of articles relating to the right of citizens to form political parties, the freedom of association, the right to form trade unions and federations, and the right to political participation. “However, we maintain reservations about the text of Article 204,” said the statement in reference to the article permitting the military trials of civilians in certain circumstances, “…we had hoped that the text would have banned the referral of any civilian to military court.”
The organisations also approved of the economic and social rights guaranteed in the proposed constitution as it related to housing, education, and right to food and adequate health.
They also welcomed the constitution’s stipulated rights of minorities, saying that Article 235 would compel the coming legislative body to “pass a law to regulate the construction and renovation of churches to ensure Christians’ freedom of practicing their religious rites.”
The statement also highlighted aspects of the constitution it approved of with respect to children’s rights, labour rights, rights of the disabled, the role of the National Council for Human Rights, and the electoral process.
The civil society organisations said that due to the constitution and Article 93, which stipulates that “the state is committed to the international human rights agreements, covenants, and conventions ratified by Egypt,” that the coming Egyptian parliament would need to initiate sweeping legislative reform so that Egypt’s laws would fall in line with such ratified international agreements.
Twenty-three groups signed the Wednesday statement, including the Egyptian Organisation for Human Rights, the Arab Centre for Development and Human Rights, the National Centre for Human Rights, the Egyptian Centre for Women’s Rights, and the Arab Centre for Human Development.
Earlier this week the Egyptian Initiative for Personal Rights (EIPR) said that the amended constitution provided “relative improvement”, but failed to make a real “leap” in the rights and freedoms afforded to the Egyptian people.
EIPR criticised the Constituent Assembly’s lack of social dialogue, saying many of the document’s problems could have been avoided with such dialogue.
The Arab Network for Human Rights Information had also criticised aspects of the draft constitution, especially as it related to Islamic aspects.