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Egypt urged to amend draft constitution, comply with international treaties

The Human Rights Watch (HRW) [advocacy website] sent a letter [text] to the members of the Egyptian Constituent Assembly on Monday urging them to amend Egypt's draft constitution [official website; in Arabic] to comply with international treaties. HRW said that international human rights treaties ratified by Egypt should have clear supremacy over domestic law because the Vienna Convention on the Law of Treaties [text, PDF] prohibits a country from using internal law as justification for failing to follow a treaty. While applauding that the draft constitution upholds "many key civil, political, social, economic, and cultural rights," as well as "other positive measures for human rights protection," HRW also criticized the draft constitution for its failure to: adequately protect against torture; provide for freedom of religion; increase freedom of speech; create a clear commitment to gender equality; strengthen protection of children; reinstate language prohibiting forced labor, trafficking, and slavery; include a provision on privacy; unequivocally include freedom of association; extend requirements ensuring the right to a lawyer for an accused person; and exclude an article giving "a legislative vetting role to an unelected, unaccountable body with no recourse to judicial review." The president of the Assembly has said the constitution is expected to be ready by mid-November [HRW press release], after which a referendum on the constitution and parliamentary elections would take place.

Despite the success of a peaceful presidential election, Egypt has faced continued political turmoil since the overthrow of former president Hosni Mubarak last year. In August a lawyer in Egypt filed an appeal challenging a declaration by President Mohammed Morsi, granting himself complete legislative and executive power [JURIST reports]. In July, a few days after he was sworn in, Morsi issued a decree [JURIST reports] calling the dissolved Egyptian parliament back into session, despite a previous ruling by the country's Supreme Constitutional Court [official website] dissolving it due to its finding that one-third of its members were elected illegally. The court suspended Morsi's decree two days later, after which Morsi vowed that he would respect the ruling [JURIST reports]. Days before its dissolution, the Egyptian parliament elected a new constitutional council after lawmakers finally reached an agreement [JURIST reports] on the political composition of the council. In April the country's Administrative Court temporarily suspended [JURIST report] the work of the Egyptian Constituent Assembly after ruling in favor of a lawsuit challenging the constitutionality of the formation of the panel.

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