Human Rights Watch (HRW) today sent a strongly-worded public letter to Egypt's constitution drafters saying their current document violates international law and rights treaties.
The US-based rights giant is alarmed at the state of the proposed constitution, saying it fails to protect vulnerable groups and uphold key rights, such as the freedom of religion, Reuters cited HRW as saying.
The group also criticized the Sept. 27 draft for not being definitive enough on issues like torture; for not prohibiting child labor, slavery, or forced labor; and for not including rights to privacy and assembly.
“It is particularly shocking that Egypt’s post-Mubarak constitution does not mention the word torture but instead refers only to lesser forms of physical harm," Nadim Houry, deputy director of HRW's Middle East and North Africa division, said in a statement today.
The group's letter urged Egypt to immediately add a clause committing the government to the same rights obligations laid out in international treaties of which it is already a party:
"[F]ully criminalize torture and cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment ... [also, the freedom of religion clause] is discriminatory and inconsistent with international law because it would exclude the rights of members of non-Abrahamic religions, such as the Bahai in Egypt, from the right to construct places of worship. ... [HRW] recommends that the Constituent Assembly include a commitment to eliminate criminal penalties for speech that does not amount to incitement to violence. ... [and] delete the term 'rulings of Sharia' to ensure a clear commitment by the state to gender equality."
The final draft of the constitution will be subject to a referendum, after which new parliamentary elections will be held. Egypt's parliament was dissolved by the then-leading military government in June.
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Work on the critical document by Egypt's 100-member constituent assembly has been hindered by factional divisions and political obstacles. There is no deadline for the finished draft, said Reuters.
The document is intended to serve as the main reference point for Egypt's new governance following last year's historic overthrow of longtime authoritarian leader Hosni Mubarak by popular protest.