Comment on the final draft of the constitution: Despite some improvements, EIPR finds that the 2013 constitution falls short of expectations

Press Release

18 December 2013

The Egyptian Initiative for Personal Rights released a detailed comment on the draft constitution, issued by the Fifty-member committee (the 2013 constitution), which will be put to a public referendum in mid-January 2014.

The EIPR’s comment, titled “Less than Hoped for: Comments on Rights and Liberties Issues in the Draft Constitution,” stated that despite the hopes invested in the Fifty-member Committee and the belief that the shortcomings of the 2012 constitution would be avoided, the constitution maintains the traditional red lines that have long regulated the practice of governance in Egypt. These red lines “have kept us subjects of the state rather than making the state work for citizens.”

Although the provisions regulating civil rights in the new draft constitution are better than those in the now suspended 2012 constitution, both in terms of their formulation and content, this relative improvement does not provide the necessary guarantees for the exercise of numerous rights and liberties addressed by the constitution.

These shortcomings could have been avoided by conducting a serious, transparent social dialogue, but unfortunately such a dialogue was not part of the process of the Committee, particularly around provisions dealing with the status of the military establishment and official religious institutions and the scope of freedom of religion and belief. The draft also fails to transcend the traditional red lines and reflects the conviction that granting broad powers to the military and official religious establishments is the primary guarantee for the protection of the Egyptian state.

In its comment, the EIPR examined articles on civil liberties, justice and reparation, and economic and social rights. It concluded that despite some improvements in the constitutional text, especially with regards to personal liberties, there was a clear failure to make a genuine qualitative leap in the sphere of rights and liberties. The 2013 constitution therefore falls short of realizing the objectives of the 25 January revolution.

The comment notes that over the past three years, the Egyptian people have repeatedly affirmed “their overwhelming desire for a dignified life and a state that respects their liberties, protects their dignity, achieves effective political participation and upholds their economic, social and cultural rights so that no regime can arbitrarily undermine or infringe them. This constitution, despite improvements, entrenches a system that will ultimately lead to the infringement of rights and liberties and the diminishment of guarantees for economic and social justice.”