Syria publishes draft constitution prior to national referendum

Syria publishes draft constitution prior to national referendum

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[JURIST] The Syrian Arab News Agency on Monday published the country’s new draft constitution [text], nearly one week before Syrian President Bashar al-Assad [BBC profile; JURIST news archive] has scheduled a referendum [JURIST report] on the constitution. The draft constitution omits a clause in the old document that upheld the Ba’ath Party as the ruling party in the country, an omission that could lead to a multiparty political system. The draft also calls for the democratic election of presidents, who will be limited to two consecutive seven-year terms, and prohibits the formation of political parties based on religion, tribe, race, class, profession or gender. The Preamble to the draft constitution emphasizes the need for peace and describes the proposed constitution as:

[A] system of fundamental principles that enshrines independence, sovereignty and the rule of the people based on election, political and party pluralism and the protection of national unity, cultural diversity, public freedoms, human rights, social justice, equality, equal opportunities, citizenship and the rule of law, where the society and the citizen are the objective and purpose for which every national effort is dedicated.

The draft constitution arrives as the international community continues to plea for a stop to the violence in Syria. The referendum on the new constitution is set to take place on February 26.

The growing unrest in Syria has drawn abundant international attention. The UN General Assembly [official website] voted last week to condemn Syria through a non-binding resolution [JURIST report]. The resolution supported a plan [text, PDF, in Arabic] advanced by the Arab League [official website] that aims to bring the situation in the country to a close as quickly as possible by encouraging al-Assad to step down. The same day, UN Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon [official profile] called on Syria to end to violence against civilians and possible crimes against humanity [JURIST report]. Ban said that estimates show over 5,000 people have been killed since violence started 11 months ago. Earlier last week, UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillay [official profile] called for the UN Security Council to refer the situation in Syria [JURIST report] to the International Criminal Court.