A draft constitution approved by Egypt’s Islamist-led Constituent Assembly ignores women’s rights and limits democratic freedoms, according to human rights group Amnesty International.
“The process of drafting the constitution was flawed from the outset, and has become increasingly unrepresentative,” said Hassiba Hadj Sahraoui, Amnesty's deputy director for the Middle East and North Africa, in a statement.
“We urge President [Mohamed] Morsi to put the drafting and referendum process back on the right path, one that includes all sectors of society, which respects the rule of law -- including the vital role of an independent judiciary -- and results in a constitution that enshrines human rights, equality and dignity for all.”
The assembly rushed the approval of the draft constitution after 16 hours of deliberation, ending early in the morning last Friday, following a decree on Nov. 22 by Morsi that denied the judiciary authority to dissolve the legislative body and limited its ability to check his powers.
Amnesty International has criticized the assembly’s lack a representation of opposition parties, women and young people, and its overrepresentation of the Freedom and Justice and Nour parties, Islamist political factions that favor implementing of Shariah law in the constitution.
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“Provisions that purport to protect rights mask new restrictions, including on criticism of religion,” Hadj Sahraoui said.
“Women, who were barely represented in the assembly, have the most to lose from a constitution which ignores their aspirations, and blocks the path to equality between men and women. It is appalling that virtually the only references to women relate to the home and family.”
Protests were held Friday both for and against the assembly’s approval of the draft constitution and Morsi’s decree.
"We are determined to continue with all peaceful means, whatever it takes to defend our legitimate rights," Egyptian Nobel Peace laureate Mohamed ElBaradei told a crowd in Cairo, the Associated Press reported.
Pro-government rallies were held Saturday among supporters of the Muslim Brotherhood, an Islamist political movement that established the Freedom and Justice Party which Morsi ran under during his presidential campaign.
The draft constitution was sent on Saturday to Morsi, who set the date for the referendum to adopt the document for Dec. 15.
The political opposition has expressed reservations about holding a referendum without having time to organize a vote against the constitution.
Opposition groups will be faced with the choice of boycotting the referendum or participating and facing a likely defeat at the hands of the Muslim Brotherhood’s well-organized political machine.
Many judges throughout the country have also expressed opposition to the referendum, with Egypt’s Judges Club, an independent organization of nearly 10,000 judges, announcing it would not support it or work to operate the voting.
“Instead of marking a return to order and the rule of law, the adopted text of the constitution has plunged Egypt into even greater chaos and deadlock,” Hadj Sahraoui said.