A weekly section that covers updates on constitutional design and key constitutions-related news in the Muslim World
Week of September 16, 2013
Egypt’s 50-member committee responsible for drafting the country’s new constitution held its first meeting on September 8. Interim Egyptian President Adly Mansour issued a decree on September 1, 2013, establishing the committee, which has 60 days to complete its task. The liberal-dominated committee consists of representatives of various political and civil society groups, with the exception of the Muslim Brotherhood. A 10-member technical committee of experts, established earlier on July 20 pursuant to a Constitutional Declaration of the interim President, produced an initial draft which it submitted to the 50-member committee to use as a starting point. The new constitution will be put to a national referendum according to the July 3 transition roadmap issued by the Egyptian military after it ousted Brotherhood-backed President Mohammed Morsi following a wave of mass protests across Egypt. The Muslim Brotherhood rejected the roadmap and continues to hold protests despite its dwindling popular support, a military crackdown and recent extension of the state of emergency.
Tunisia’s National Constituent Assembly is due to resume its meetings to draft the country’s new post-revolution constitution after a month-long suspension. The President of the Assembly, Mustafa Ben Jaafar, a member of smaller coalition party Ettakatol, had halted its work on August 6 due to a political crisis triggered by the assassination of secular opposition leader Mohamed Brahmi in July. Some 60 opposition representatives, out of a total of 217 elected Assembly members, had withdrawn, accusing the government of trying to impose an Islamist agenda, mismanaging the economy and failing to curb radical groups. Months earlier, another secular leader, Chokri Belaid, was killed in a similar attack that sparked a wave of protests. Negotiations between opposition parties and Islamist Ennahda ruling party are scheduled to resume this week. Drafting the constitution is a key step before planned parliamentary elections can be held.
The President of Yemen’s National Dialogue conference called on conference delegates to submit their recommendations for a new constitution by September 19. The dialogue, aimed at drawing up a new constitution and preparing for national elections in February 2014, was scheduled to be concluded on September 18, but the talks have been extended for two weeks. According to Foreign Minister Abu Bakr al-Kurbi, the 565 Conference delegates have agreed on the principle of establishing a federal state consisting of North and South Yemen, a key demand of Yemen’s southern delegates, but differences remain on the number of regions proposed. The dialogue is part of a UN and Gulf States-brokered power transfer deal, aimed at preparing for full democratic elections in February 2014. Yemen is the only Arab Spring state in which an uprising resulted in a negotiated solution, with former autocratic president Ali Abdulla Saleh agreeing to step down.
The Malaysian Federal Court of Appeals dismissed on September 4 a constitutional challenge to the Police Act of 1967, which requires a permit for public assemblies and makes it an offense to assemble without a permit. The Court’s majority opinion held that the restrictions were reasonable to protect and maintain law and order and the interests of the public, and did not infringe on the constitutional right to peaceful assembly. The appeal was brought by five university students in their bid to reverse their convictions for participating in an anti-Internal Security Act rally in 2001. The students were fined $1200 and were expelled from their public universities as a result of their participation in the rally. Constitutional and human rights lawyer Edmond Bon, who represented the five students, commented that the outcome was disappointing and encouraged constitutional lawyers to pursue the issue further in federal courts. He pointed to Justice Hamid Sultan’s dissenting opinion, which argued that there could not be penal sanction legislated if citizens assemble peacefully without committing any offense under the Penal Code.
By Salma Waheedi, Juris Doctor Candidate (2014), Northwestern University School of Law