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Egypt rights groups call for new vote on constitution

A coalition of Egyptian rights group called Sunday for a redo of Saturday's constitutional referendum, alleging widespread irregularities [press release]. The groups, including the Cairo Institute for Human Rights [advocacy website], claim that there was a lack of judicial supervision at the polling places and intentional delays at several women's polling places, rendering them unable to vote. Results from Saturday's referendum, which took place in about half of the voting districts, show a lead for the "yes" vote after the first round, with a second and final round scheduled to take place in the remaining districts next Saturday. The rights groups also, "call[ed] upon the Supreme Elections Commission to avoid these irregularities in the second round."

The draft constitution [text, PDF] is backed by the Islamists and has been extremely controversial. Last week the UN Working Group on discrimination against women [official website] expressed grave concern [JURIST report] over the draft constitution. UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillay [official profile] has also expressed concern at the rising death toll during the ongoing political chaos in Egypt, saying that Egypt's draft constitution presents serious problems for human rights [JURIST report]. Pillay complained [UN News Centre report] that the draft constitution was passed without the participation of Christian or liberal legislators. Pillay also said that she was concerned about the draft constitution's omission of references to international human rights treaties that Egypt ratified in the past. While Pillay commended the fact that the draft constitution imposes term limits on President Mohammed Morsi [BBC backgrounder] and provides some protections for freedom of expression and religion, she noted that these protections were not strong enough.

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