Translation: Egypt’s Interim Constitutional Declaration

The general outlines of the next phase of Egypt’s transition process–the second transition process, after the second revolution–were announced by interim President Adly Mansour this week. The rushed process and bare-bones nature of the announcement produced a smaller document from past Egyptian constitutions, which I have translated in full at the bottom of this post. Following the basic thesis of a previous post I wrote on the history of Egypt’s constitutional transition, I believe we can read this document as evidence of the institutional competition taking place in the realm of statist politics during Egypt’s revolution.

In this phase of the transition, it appears from the constitution that the military and especially the judiciary have asserted themselves. Article 13 guarantees universal conscription, providing the military with a massive workforce for their numerous industrial and defense interests, and Article 19 ensures the independence of the military courts, which were used to try thousands of civilians during the last transition process. As for the judiciary, Articles 16-18 guarantee their independence, ensuring that no authority may place themselves above judicial review (a specific rebuke of Mursi’s constitutional declaration last November). Article 28 also guarantees the judiciary a significant presence on the “Council of Experts” that will suggest amendments to the constitution, giving the judges a much more substantial role in the process of drafting a new constitution.

In some excellent analyses, both Ziad al-Ali and Nathan Brown have compared this transition process with the last one, finding disturbing similarities that may not bode well for the future of the country. For instance, Article 24 allows the President to possess both legislative and executive authority, responsibilities that President Mursi combined to create the spectre of dictatorship. The timetable, as outlined in Articles 28-30 is even more rushed than the previous process, with a total of three months of deliberation to draft a constitution, followed by one month for the public to digest the result before voting in a referendum. Article 1 preserves the complicated formula inserted by Islamists during the last process to define the sources of Islamic law and limit judicial activism. Perhaps most importantly, the constitutional process was once again announced by fiat from political elites on high, without any hint of popular participation in the process. It is not surprising that the Rebellion movement which organized protests against Mursi has already expressed dissatisfaction with the declaration, saying it “lays the foundations for dictatorship.”

Here is the text of the translation:

The Current President of the Republic

After the announcement of the report issued by the general leaders of the armed forces on the third of July, 2013, and the constitutional declaration issued on the sixth of July, 2013.

Has decided:

Article 1:

The Arab Republic of Egypt is a democratic state based on the principles of citizenship; Islam is the religion of the state; the Arabic language is its official language;  The principles of Islamic Law (shari’aa islamiyya), which are contained in the sources of evidence for traditional legal scholarship (adillatiha al-kulliyya waqua’adiha al-usuliyya wa-fiqihiyya), and are considered and elaborated in the four schools of Sunni law (madhahib ahl al-sunna wa-gama’aa) and by those who follow them, are the principle bases of legislation.

Article 2:

Popular sovereignty will be practiced and protected; national unity will be safeguarded, which is the basis for power

Article 3:

The economic system will be based on social justice; Taxes and general fees will be employed to their duties according to law; The distribution, amendment, or cancellation of general taxes will take place according to law; And no one should be exempted from their implementation except in circumstances as set out in law;  And the fees or taxes imposed on one shall not exceed that of another except as delimited by law

Article 4:

Citizens are equal before the law, and they have equal rights and duties generally, without discrimination on the basis of gender, origin, race (nua’), language, religion, or creed. The state shall guarantee equal opportunity for all citizens

Article 5:

The private lives of citizens and their privacy is protected by law. And postal messages, telegrams, telephone conversations, and other forms of communication are private, and their privacy is guaranteed, they may not be confiscated and there may be no censorship of them except as ordered by a prior judicial warrant, for a definite period, and in accordance with the provisions of the law

Article 6:

Personal Freedom is an untouchable natural right that will be safeguarded, with the exception of cases of flagrante delicto; it is not permissible to seize, investigate, imprison, impede on the freedoms, or restrict the movement of any individual, unless it is necessitated to safeguard the security of society, and this is determined by an expert judicial order or the public prosecutor, in accordance with the law, and detention is limited to a period specified by law. And the privacy of the domicile may not be impeded or investigated except by judicial order based on probably cause in accordance with the law.

Article 7:

Freedom of opinion is guaranteed, and every human may express their opinion and publish it in written or spoken statement, pictures, or any other means of expression, as delimited by law. The state guarantees freedom of creed and freedom to express religious feelings for believers in the heavenly religions.

Article 8:

Freedom of the press, printing, published, and the media is guaranteed, and censorship over the press or the media is prohibited, and threatening, suspending, or revoking the means of publishing information is prohibited. Exceptions may be made in cases of emergency or in times of war that compel the press, printers, and media to undergo limited censorship by the dictates of national security, and this will all be in accordance with the law

Article 9:

Work is a right, duty, and honor for all citizens, guaranteed by the state on the basis of the principle of equality and justice, and there may not be an imposition of any forced work except in accordance with law

Article 10:

Citizens have the right to organize general civil society groups, processions, and demonstrations that are peaceful and unarmed, and may therefore build them in accordance with the process set down in law. The right to private meetings is guaranteed, without the need for prior notice, and security personnel may not attend private meetings or wiretap them. Citizens have the right to form groups and found organizations, unions, and political parties in the prescribed by law. It is prohibited to found a group whose activities are hostile to society, or a secret society or a militia. A political party may not be founded on the basis of differences between citizens in terms of gender, origin, or religion, and parties may not be dissolved except by a judicial decision

Article 11:

There is possession (mulk) of general privacy; its protection and its support is a duty of every citizen in accordance with law. Private ownership will be safeguarded, and may not be imposed to sequestration, except in cases specified by law or judicial decision, or removed, excepted in the public interest, without fair compensation, all of this according to law

Article 12:

All violations of personal freedom or privacy of citizens and other violations of rights and general freedoms that are guaranteed by the constitution and law, and all crimes that do not fall outside of the statute of limitations, the state will guarantee fair compensation for the victims of the violation

Article 13:

Defense of the nation and its territory is a sacred duty, as well as compulsory conscription in accordance with the law in order to preserve national unity; Safeguarding the secrets of the state is the duty of every citizen

Article 14:

Punishment is personal. There will be no crime or punishment except as defined by law, and no punishment will take place except by judicial order, and there will be no punishment except for acts committed subsequent to the date that the law takes effect

Article 15:

The rule of law with the basis of governance in the state. Litigation is a guaranteed and protected right for every individual, and every citizens has the natural right to resort to the courts. It is prohibited for the text of a law to exempt any administrate action or decision from judicial review

Article 16:

The judiciary is an independent power, and the court will have authority over its different branches and classes, and no other power may enter into its judgements  or its responsibility for justice. And the members of the judicial, state, and administration bodies will be included in the safeguards prescribed for judges.

Article 17:

The Council of the State is an independent judicial body, specializing in the settlement of administrative disputes and disciplinary proceedings, and the law will outline its other features

Article 18:

The Supreme Constitutional Court is a self-contained and independent judicial body, specializing without peer in judicial oversight of the constitutionality of law and regulations, and able to interpret the texts of legislations, in the manner prescribed by law. The law will prescribe other characteristics of the court, and regulates the procedures to be followed in front of the court

Article 19:

The military courts are an independent judicial branch, specializing without peer in adjudicating crimes related to the armed forces, its officers and members, and the law will outline its other features.

Article 20:

The judicial branches and bodies exercise the specific authorities in this declaration, and in existing laws, and amending the laws governing the affairs may not be allowed during the period of the constitutional validity of this declaration

Article 21:

The Armed Forces are the property (mulk) of the people, charged with protecting the country and preserving its security and peace in the territory. It is prohibited for any individual, body, branch, or group to found or create military or paramilitary groups. And the law specifies the conditions of service or advancement in the armed forces.

Article 22:

A council called the “National Defense Council” will be founded, and the President of the Republic will be its President. The National Defense Council will specialize in the oversight of the specific means of securing the country and ensuring peace, discussing the budget of the armed forces, and it will be necessary to take its opinion into account in planning laws related to the armed forces. The law will specify the formation of the Council and its other features.

Article 23:

The President of the Republic is the President of the State, and the leader of the executive branch. He will oversee the realization of the people’s sovereignty, be the guardian of their interest, respectful of the law, and protector of national interest and social justice. He will preserve national independence and territorial security, guard of the separation of powers, and be willing to take all necessary measures to protect the country; all of this according to what is laid out in this declaration and according to law.

Article 24:

The President of the Republic has administrative responsibility for the country, and has the direct authorities that are specified as follows: 1) Legislative authority, after taking the opinions of the Council of Ministers into account, and the legislative authority will transfer to the House of Representatives after their elections. 2) General policy decisions for the state, the general budget, and supervision of the executive. 3) Formation of a state, both foreign and domestic, and the conclusion of international treaties and agreements, after the approval of the Council of Ministers, shall have the force of law. 4) The appointment of the Prime Minister and his Deputies and relieving them of their posts. 5) The appointment of civil servants and soldiers and political representatives, and relieving them in accordance with law, and appointing political representatives to foreign countries. 6) Declaring war after taking into account the opinion of the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces, and the agreement of the National Defense Council. 7) Pardoning or commuting a sentence, and amnesty will only take place in accordance with law. 8) Other powers and responsibilities granted to  the President of the Republic are established under the laws and regulations, which may authorize any of these responsibilities.

Article 25:

The Council of Ministers will be the responsible executive authority in all of its specifications, and in particular the Council will have the following direct responsibilities: 1) Cooperating with the President of the Republic in making general policy for the state and overseeing its implementation in accordance with the law and the decisions of the republic. 2) Directing, coordinating, and implementing the work of the Ministers, their affiliates, agencies, and public institutions. 3) Announcing and executing administrative decisions in accordance with laws, regulations, and decisions, and the oversight of their execution. 4) Preparing legal plans and decisions for the republic. 5) Preparing the general budget for the state. 6) Preparing the general plan for the state. 7) Contracting and granting loans in accordance with the provisions of the Constitution. 8) Executing the law, preserving the security of the nation and its interests, and protecting the rights and freedoms of citizens

Article 26:

The Prime Minister will set the regulations necessary for the implementation of laws, to the extent determined by law and necessary for its implementation. He will also announce the regulations necessary for the foundation of facilities and the organization of general interests after obtaining the agreements of the Council of Ministers. And if the execution of these duties necessitates exceeding the general budget, it is necessary to obtain the agreement of the President of the Republic.

Article 27:

The President of the Republic will announce, after the agreements of the Council of Minister, a state of Emergency to the extent that is set out by law. The declaration of the state of emergency will be for a limited period not to exceed three months, and it may not exceed this period without achieving the agreement of the people in a general referendum.

Article 28:

The formation, by decision of the President of the Republic, during a period not to exceed fifteen days from the date of the issuance of this announcement, a Committee of Experts including two members of the Supreme Constitutional Court and it’s body of counsellors, two members from Egypt’s regular judiciary, two members from the Council of the State, and four scholars of constitutional law from Egyptian Universities. The Judiciary branches will select their representatives, and the High Council of Universities will select the constitutional law scholars. The Committee will specialize in suggesting amendments to the 2012 Constitution, which they will prepare during a 30 day period from the date of their formation. The decision issued to form the committee will be the venue where the rules of the organization are worked out.

Article 29:

The committee will start from the text of the preceding Articles [of the 2012 constitution], suggestion constitutional amendments to a committee composed of 50 members, representing all segments of society and diversity of sects of the population, especially the parties of intellectuals, workers, peasants, members of trade unions and quality federations, the national council, al-Azhar mosque, the Egyptian churches, the armed forces, the police, and the general public, and there will be 10 young men and women among them at least. Each party will nomiate their representatives, and the Council of Ministers will nominate the public figures.

The committee must end [their deliberations] and prepare the final draft of the constitutional amendments within sixty days from the receipt of their suggestion,  [during which time] they are committed to a social dialogue. The President of the Republic will issue a decision necessitating the formation of the Committee and determining their location, and outlining the basic principles of the organization of their work and measures to ensure social dialogue about the amendments.

Article 30:

The President of the Republic will announce the plan of the constitutional amendments for a popular referendum after 30 days from the date he receives them, and the amendments will take effect from the date of the announcement of an agreement that the people have consented to through a referendum. The President of the Republic will call for elections of the a House of Representatives within fifteen days of the date specified for holding elections, within a period not less than one month and not more than two months [from the Constitutional Referendum]. And the during the first week at most of meetings for the House of Representatives, elections for a new President will be called for. The Higher Committee for Elections existing at the date of this declaration will have full supervision of the referendum.

Article 31:

Laws will be published in the Official Gazette during the week following the day of their announcement, and will be worked out in deliberation during the months following the date of publication, unless another date is specified in the terms of the law

Article 32:

All of the laws and regulations in effect prior to the issuance of this constitutional declaration will remain valid and in effect, and they may be cancelled or amended in accordance with the principles and processes specified in this declaration.

Article 33:

This declaration will be published in the official journal and will be in effect in the day following the date of its publication.

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