Egyptian Court Postpones Constitution Ruling
December 02, 2012
Egypt's top court has postponed a session at which it was to consider the legality of a panel that drafted a new constitution for the country.
A statement issued by the court said public demonstrations by Islamist supporters of President Muhammad Morsi made it impossible for judges to work.
The court said it was indefinitely suspending its work until the "psychological and material pressures" end.
Earlier, President Muhammad Morsi scheduled a December 15 referendum on the draft constitution.
Morsi called the vote as opponents and supporters of the president staged competing rallies on December 1.
More than 100,000 Islamist supporters of Morsi took to the streets of Cairo and other cities, while opponents of the president continued a sit-in at central Cairo’s Tahrir Square.
The rights group Amnesty International has condemned the draft constitution, saying it “falls well short of protecting human rights" and "ignores the rights of women, restricts freedom of expression in the name of protecting religion, and allows for the military trial of civilians.”
The draft was given speedy approval by the assembly amid turmoil over Morsi’s November 22 decree granting himself broad powers to issue decisions that cannot be challenged in courts.
Morsi’s decree prevents the court from taking any action against the legislature.
After receiving a copy of the draft charter, Morsi pledged to hold a dialogue with opponents to move the country past what he called a “transitional period.” He repeated that his plan calls for his new powers to expire once a constitution is ratified.
“I repeat the call to open a genuine national dialogue, about the concerns of the nation, with all honesty, to end the transitional period as quickly as possible to guarantee the security of our newborn democracy,” he said.
Crowds of opposition supporters in Tahrir Square reacted harshly to Morsi’s announcement, reflecting the deepening divide in the nation of 83 million people.
Protester Emad Fikry accused the president of working for the goals of the Muslim Brotherhood, Morsi’s former organization.
"You betrayed the people and Tahrir Square and all the revolutionaries. You stole power for the Muslim Brotherhood so as to realize their goals, and nothing else -- not a realization for all Egyptians," Fikry said. "We do not recognize you as a president now."
Protester Atiya Suleiman said the draft constitution doesn't serve the interests of all Egyptians.
"The constitution that has been made is incomplete. It's a political constitution tailored to a particular group -- it doesn't cater to general interest," Suleiman said. "This constitution is nothing but a political one that does not benefit the people.”
In its statement denouncing the constitutional draft, Amnesty International said the document “will come as an enormous disappointment to many of the Egyptians who took to the streets” to oust former ruler Hosni Mubarak and demand their rights in early 2011.
Amnesty said the document limits freedom of religion to Islam, Christianity, and Judaism, potentially excluding the right to worship to other religious minorities such as Baha'is and Shi'a Muslims.
It said the draft also fails to provide for the supremacy of international law over national law, raising concerns about Egypt’s commitment to human rights treaties.
Amnesty said “the process of drafting the constitution was flawed from the outset” and became increasingly unrepresentative as opposition parties and Christians boycotted the assembly.
It said the assembly ended up being dominated by the Muslim Brotherhood-linked Freedom and Justice Party and the Islamic conservative Nour Party. It said few women participated.
With reporting from Reuters, AP, and AFP
Copyright (c) 2012. RFE/RL, Inc. Reprinted with the permission of Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, 1201 Connecticut Ave., N.W. Washington DC 20036.
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