The Egyptian Bill of Rights

Here is my suggestion for the Egyptian Bill of Rights, which I have spent the past week discussing with many civil forces and groups, and has managed to get a lot of support for it. The Free Egyptians party adopted it as their position, so dida number of other civil movements and forces as well, including “Together for a Civil State”. I welcome any other party, civil force or movement that aims to push it as well. This is not about Credit, and whoever wants the credit or has been working on it in parallel, please be my guest and take it. I just want to see this secured, and have it as an inalienable and irrevocable part of our constitution. I have explained the rationale for them here, and you will find the full text below, which is copied and pasted from the Universal declaration for Human rights, which Egypt is a signatory of. Please review and let me know what you think. This document is open for discussion.

  • All human beings are born free and equal in dignity and rights. They are endowed with reason and conscience and should act towards one another in a spirit of brotherhood.
  • Everyone is entitled to all the rights and freedoms set forth in this Declaration, without distinction of any kind, such as race, color, sex, language, religion, political or other opinion, national or social origin, property, birth or other status.
  • Everyone has the right to freedom of thought, conscience and religion;
  • Everyone has the right to freedom of opinion and expression; this right includes freedom to hold opinions without interference and to seek, receive and impart information and ideas through any media and regardless of frontiers.
  • Everyone has the right to freedom of peaceful assembly and association.
  • Everyone has the right freely to participate in the cultural life of the community, to enjoy the arts and to share in scientific advancement and its benefits.
  • Everyone has the right to education.
  • No one shall be subjected to torture or to cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment.
  • All are equal before the law and are entitled without any discrimination to equal protection of the law. All are entitled to equal protection against any discrimination in violation of this Declaration and against any incitement to such discrimination.
  • Everyone has the right to an effective remedy by the competent national tribunals for acts violating the fundamental rights granted him by the constitution or by law.
  • No one shall be subjected to arbitrary arrest, detention or exile.
  • Everyone is entitled in full equality to a fair and public hearing by an independent and impartial tribunal, in the determination of his rights and obligations and of any criminal charge against him.
  • Everyone charged with a penal offence has the right to be presumed innocent until proved guilty according to law in a public trial at which he has had all the guarantees necessary for his defense.
  • No one shall be held guilty of any penal offence on account of any act or omission which did not constitute a penal offence, under national or international law, at the time when it was committed. Nor shall a heavier penalty be imposed than the one that was applicable at the time the penal offence was committed.
  • Everyone has the right to own property alone as well as in association with others. No one shall be arbitrarily deprived of his property.
  • Everyone has the right to take part in the government of his country, directly or through freely chosen representatives. Everyone has the right of equal access to public service in his country.
  • The will of the people shall be the basis of the authority of government; this will shall be expressed in periodic and genuine elections which shall be by universal and equal suffrage and shall be held by secret vote or by equivalent free voting procedures.

Comments

  1. Merna Peter says:

    Targem ba2a ya brens we spread. I abbrove! You’re the best monkey there ever was! Smoooch!

  2. Mohamed Zaki says:

    Dude i dont want 2 frustrate you but if #MB sees it they will tell you its all in the islamic sharia. Great post though i agree with merna hanem.. translate it and send it to some news papers :D

  3. From a primary reading, I think you said it all
    We just need some extra comments, to have a
    Final draft, translate it, then print and distibute
    it out.

  4. These all sound consistent except for Education. If you mean that the education shall be provided, then this is a claim upon the work of others, and I am pleasantly surprised that this is the only one. If what you mean is that all persons enjoy *equal* rights to education, that helps take to “provide” element out of it, while strengthening the universality aspect.

    • Education must be provided, free of charge to citizens, maximum of 2 children, up to finishing Junior High or Middle School.Those with more children will have to pay.
      High school & university should be like anywhere else in the world; high school= if you do well you can continue and go to university, if you don’t do well you go to city college or institutes for skilled labour etc. University= You do very well in high school & get a Scholarship, you go for free. You scrape through or insist on going to university you borrow the money from several options and pay it back when you finish,over several years.
      Also, I believe that at least for the first few months after graduation the govt must provide a minimal living stipend so young people have a chance to find and create jobs to avoid creating more crime opportunities instead.

  5. Sharifa O. Islam says:

    Add ‘state of health or disability’ to article 2.

    • Sharifa O. Islam says:

      I meant add to item 2 of the above, not article 2 of the constitution. Also.. Shouldn’t this be separate from the constitution? An irrevocable contract that is never subject to change?

      • This is seperate from the Constitution; this is to set certain inalienable rights that may not be cancelled irrelevant of the Constitution.Pre Parliamentary election, pre any more elections. A Bill that cannot be cancelled no matter what.

    • Great suggestion. I was also thinking to suggest adding sexual orientation, so gays would be protected too. but this may be to progressive for our culture to be accepted, at least for the timebeing.

      • Culture is a result of the constitution. Not he other way around. So the constitution should be based on what is the right thing to do. The culture will follow. Protection of minorities cannot be voted into legislation. Protection of minorities is the foundation that you built your voting system upon. In short it is not up for discussion. It is something you fight for (violently if necessary) to implement.

        That is the paradox you have to accept. Democracy is created by dictate. All minorities are protected. No ifs or buts.

        • Totally. All minorities have the rights that everyone else does.That goes without saying, but must here be said and signed.

      • The inception point of democracy is undemocratic. And in that inception ALL minorities are granted full protection under the constitution.

  6. did u read the 1971 constitution?

  7. MoShewy says:

    Good job! I shall spread spread spread!!

  8. Omneya Nour Eldin says:

    Sounds ideal to me! Should be translated and published. You’re the man Sandmonkey!

  9. An excellent base.

    Whatever the final content, there should be safeguards to ensure its initial inclusion and preclude its amendment or the subsequent evolution of laws that contravene it.

    There will be those who scoff and argue that it should be drafted by parliament.
    However, I would argue the Bill of Rights would be the articulation and permanent achievement of the January 25 Revolution as it represents the core principles of dignity and civil liberty that people gave their lives for.

    It should take no less than a revolution to revoke any part of it.

  10. It looks great! May I suggest nuetralizing the gender refernece to include both sexes. e.g him/her, his/her, he/she, humanity instead of brotherhood. This practice has been adopted for many years in various languages, and I beleive that our revolution should start doing the same, it will be a first in the Arab world and would be followed in other Arab countries.

  11. Mamdouh Tawfik says:

    It is awesome but I think we need to add to point 3: the right to have a place to practice such thought or belief

    • ESSAM HELMY says:

      The idea of practcing your beliefs is not only limited to the right of voicing your opinon, but rather is the right to have the FOURM.

  12. The safeguards to preclude rescinding or amendment need to be explicitly built into the Bill of Rights itself.

    I also agree that the “right to education” while inalienable will need to be refined.

  13. Perhaps we should add a bit under “freedom of religion” to explain exactly what that means. For example: The freedom to build houses of worship, the freedom to worship (or not to worship) however/wherever you want, the freedom to change religions, the freedom NOT to have religion on your ID card, the freedom not to be forced to take religion classes in school. There should also be some stipulation about no discrimination when hiring for employment based on sex, religion, race, etc..

    Also, I think that something about women’s rights, and labor rights (unions, etc..) would be a good addition. Women should be equals to men under the law (like in court).

    • ESSAM HELMY says:

      The right to assemble peacefully and association concures with the freedom of religion meaning that you can build places of worship and assemble with others to worship. And it also encompasses the right to form unions, social clubs, socities….etc for whatever cause you and others belive in.
      The reason for not enumerating is very simple; if you mention what kind of unions or assemblies you want to protect then you will, probono, exclude others or leave a door for interpetations

    • I agree there should be mention of places of worship & basic religious freedom, it really is no ones business what religion I choose to follow & if I want anyone to know. But I believe that when all else is mentioned it is clear that both men & women are included because nothing else is acceptable.Take into consideration that Egyptian women got the vote before their western counterparts, had the right to education also since the time of the pharoahs and receive the same pay for the same work. Other than that there are many rights that Egyptian women have on paper but which haven’t been implemented, so we have to work hard on implementation. And pray we succeed for all of us, women & men.

  14. hafsa halawa says:

    I think its great! Fantastic start & incorporating this chapter as a ‘Bill of Rights’ to our Constitution is an amazing idea. I only have a slight issue with the wordings or articles 13/14, as they are too vague in terms of international law/national law (whereby there are many institutions Egypt is not a part of etc) and leaves no room for retrospective laws that may be brought in in the future, whether national/international laws. If you put these things in direct conflict ur effectively putting at risk the (national) sovereignty of the country whereby our constitution may not be in agreement with international law conventions we are a party to, whether now or in the future. I don’t disagree with an article addressing the human rights of those detained without trial, & the charges some may be arressted for…but I think the wording needs a closer look; these types of wordings depend more on what model of a constitution this country adopts as there will be certain elements of the penal code (eg) that contradict these articles when looking at the commission of acts/omissions etc…also; there needs to be leeway to allow for us to join other internationla organisations/conventions whilst not affecting our constitution that will be embedded as part of our national sovereignty…sorry for the long winded reply, I hope my message was coherent; but the idea of it is fantastic & something that definately needs consideration!!! Well done :)

  15. Hi, didn’t see right to privacy in here like we were discussing on Twitter. Would be advantageous for religious minorities, religion on that damn national ID card, sexual orientation, etc.

    Keep up the good work ya 2erd el ramla.

  16. moaned el sharkawy says:

    Please check your mail.I sent u an email this morning that may be useful in the translation.The bill might be acceptable by S C A F as it does not need them to admit a change in their plan/schedule. It should be above the constitution and binding to who ever writes the new constitution. Rejecting it would be an embarecment in front of the international community

  17. Abdallah_h says:

    No one shall be persecuted, nor any law set, based solely on religious law

    Prime example, its illegal to steal because its wrong, not because its haraam. on the same standard, you cant ban pork simply because its haraam. This ensures that halaal and haraam do not become legal and illegal.

    • Nationalist says:

      Ridiculous. If citizens, through exercising their democratic rights, express a desire for certain laws to be based on religion, this should be permitted. To do otherwise would be to deny democracy, and to guarantee civil strife.

  18. Sandra Louka says:

    I went through the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and believe that there are 2 important articles that should be included in the Egyptian Bill of Rights:

    Article 23.
    (1) Everyone has the right to work, to free choice of employment, to just and favourable conditions of work and to protection against unemployment.
    (2) Everyone, without any discrimination, has the right to equal pay for equal work.
    (3) Everyone who works has the right to just and favourable remuneration ensuring for himself and his family an existence worthy of human dignity, and supplemented, if necessary, by other means of social protection.
    (4) Everyone has the right to form and to join trade unions for the protection of his interests.

    Article 25.
    (1) Everyone has the right to a standard of living adequate for the health and well-being of himself and of his family, including food, clothing, housing and medical care and necessary social services, and the right to security in the event of unemployment, sickness, disability, widowhood, old age or other lack of livelihood in circumstances beyond his control.
    (2) Motherhood and childhood are entitled to special care and assistance. All children, whether born in or out of wedlock, shall enjoy the same social protection.

    There are also articles 12, 14 and 16 which I think are important.

    As for the education part I would add:
    Education shall be free, at least in the elementary and fundamental stages. Elementary education shall be compulsory. Technical and professional education shall be made generally available. (Art.26 (1))
    Although I strongly agree with the “..and higher education shall be equally accessible to all on the basis of merit.” I am however not sure this can or should be applied in Egypt.

    One last thing which I guess you already know, there’s no need for translation, the Universal Declaration of human Rights exists in arabic:
    http://www.un.org/ar/documents/udhr/

    Cheers!

    • James Madison says:

      The Universal Dec. of HR is a wonderful document and represented a landmark in international diplomacy but it has proven unenforceable. If the goal is an aspirational statement of expectations, it is a compelling model. If this is a legal framework for a new nation, that’s something else.

      You need to combine the aspirations of a free nation with what you expect to be come legally enforceable constitutional rights. And remember, Egypt is a signatory to the Cairo Declaration on Human Rights in Islam. It does not guarantee equal rights. Just equal dignity for women.

  19. James Madison says:

    Great start. Generally, you need to be clear that this is about State action, not private practice. “The State shall make no law…”

    I would caution against a right to “enjoy the arts” and the right to education without greater explication. A prohibition against discriminating against people from attending cultural events (is that what you are saying?) would be captured in a general prohibition against discrimination. I assume that you are talking about public events. People can and should be able to “assemble” privately without violating your Bill of Rights.

    As for education, you need to be more specific. Are you talking about free primary education? Secondary? Higher education? Are you saying that the state will pay all costs associated with education at any particular level or at all levels? These are things that are normally left to legislatures. And guaranteeing free access to life-long learning guarantees only that the quality of the education will be poor, owing to the enormous cost of such a proposal. This probably doesn’t belong in a BOR, unless you are just talking about quality universal primary education.

    Important to note here that you are talking about the State not being able to take any action compromising these basic rights. This is not about enforcing such rights against private actors, right? You should probably make that clear.

    Also, on religion, you might want to consider something akin to the US “establishment clause” which basically prohibits the State from doing anything to promote one religion versus another. It travels with the “free exercise” clause which ensures that everyone can practice what they please. The two need to travel together. Might be a bridge too far though in contemporary Egypt.

    Good luck. We hope that we are witnessing the birth of a vibrant and free new nation…

  20. Gr8. Also, just to avoid many of the current problems that i see w/ current right protections of other countries’ constitutions (such as those present in the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms), i think we should also include “analogous grounds” in the language of the 2nd section (this was used in Canada to further protection under grounds which weren’t explicitly stated but were in fact analogous…such as sexual orientation).

  21. Outsider says:

    For those who have not read it, here is the Universal Declaration of Human Rights:

    http://www.un.org/en/documents/udhr/index.shtml

    Is there a reason not to adopt this as a starting point, and then add rights to it?

    Also worth some consideration is Roosevelt’s (I’m from the u.s.) Second Bill of Rights:

    https://secure.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/en/wiki/Second_Bill_of_Rights

    Although it has become commonplace (traditional?) in bills of rights to include “freedom of religion,” is this necessary? Right to expression and to association should be all that is required. If people want to use those rights to meet and discuss religious beliefs, then they are free to do so. It should not be necessary to mention religion any more than any other activity.

    And I’m not sure that it belongs in a bill of rights, but how elections are carried out is an important problem that has not been solved. It does not do much good to include a right to vote with a secret ballot if those votes are not counted. (Related: What is the age of voting? What rights do children have? Does “Everyone” mean everyone or only every adult?)

  22. Youssef Elmasri says:

    The concept of a “bill of rights” itself will stir the same useless discussion about el madda el tanya. The criticism will be along the lines of: The bill of rights supersedes the constitution, and nothing can be above el madda el tanya.

  23. Youssef Elmasri says:

    I think you will also have to deal with the accusation that you want to force your own rules before writing the constitution through an elected body of representatives. So you will placed with those who ask for a constitution first against the will of the 78% majority.

  24. Youssef Elmasri says:

    Having said that, this bill of rights provides core principles I would love to see implemented in Egypt.

  25. Valerie says:

    Good job.

    Also, here’s a warning about something going on in Iran: the government wants to control the internet.

    http://online.wsj.com/article/SB10001424052748704889404576277391449002016.html

    While you are working on the shape of your new government, do continue to make sure that the current government is deprived of the means to silence you. And if some of you can help our friends in Iran, even better.

    All of our governments are going to be tempted to do this from time to time, and it is up to us to make sure that we can get around them.

  26. In the US one of the most important amendments in the bill of rights is the 4th, but there’s nothing in that list that really seems to limit the police or require warrants. That’s probably because the inquisitorial system is so different from how the US works, but there must be some analog to prevent the government from snooping indiscriminately and without any oversight.

  27. James Madison says:

    http://www.almasryalyoum.com/en/node/456147

    Looks like El Baradei is thinking along the same lines.

  28. DementedBonxie says:

    I agree with Omima and Tallie. Please ensure that you use inclusive language. Great progress

  29. I have two problems with this:

    1: “should act towards one another in a spirit of brotherhood.” Do you really want government passing laws and regulations to accomplish this goal?

    2: “Everyone has the right to education.” This should be rephrased as “Everyone has the right to access to education.” The problem with the former is that someone has to deliver that education. How will that person be compensated? Will all Egyptians have to pay onerous taxes to that every last child in the remotest parts of Egypt gets an education? The latter accomplishes the goal without government coercion.

    In the US, our Founding Fathers put in the constitution a simple phrase that allowed the federal government to regulate commerce between the states. It was meant to prevent trade wars between the states but in the last seventy years, the government has interpreted it to mean they can regulate any and all activity of individuals. This is even the basis for Øbama’s health care plan that forces everyone to buy health insurance and make other people pay for it if the person can’t afford it.

    • 1) agree with. It is not business of the government to govern this. A Bill of Right a and a Constitution exist only to limit the power of the government and protect the freedoms of individuals.

      2) The right to education is better served with a negative:

      “No one will be prohibited to obtain an education of his choice. The teaching and learning is free (as in freedom).
      Schools can be created and maintained without authorization from the government.
      The parents are the only responsible for the education of their children.
      The government will not make laws supporting a school or curriculum over another”.

      • Valerie says:

        You could further add that, to the extent the government expends funds for the purpose of education, those funds will be distributed in a manner that does not discriminate on the basis of gender, ethnicity, political affiliation, etc.

  30. Congratulations – this is the type of work and publishing that should have been started last February and presented both to Government and SCAF to give them concrete demands of the revolution to work on. I hope some more of you now get to work on practical ideas for getting the economy going, ideas for new businesses to create employment etc. instead of just demanding someone else come up with the ideas before the increasing lack of money sends the current crime rate rocketing out of control. While you are all busy saying “democracy before economy” your government are having to get the country into increasing debt to keep the starvation at bay – I know this is something most of you are totally unaware – or the lack of money outside of Cairo.

  31. essam helmy says:

    Since the 1952 coup the Free Officers had a socialist agenda in mind. That political-social-economic aganda was geared towards the concept that the need of the socity is greater then the need of the individual. Therefore, individual rights were ignored when a conflect arose between the society and its members. I think that it will take sometime for the society to switch gears almost 360 dgrees around. And the society has to adopt a new socio-economical model to fit with the bill of rights, because what you are asking now is that the Egyptian society to think in a new different way.

    • Nationalist says:

      Toppling a King, permanently abolishing the monarchy and aristocracy, ending the British occupation, securing the independence of Sudan, re-claiming the Suez Canal, initiating enormous political, economic, and social change, giving land ownership rights to the fellahin for the first time in history – this was a revolution over many years, not a mere coup conducted one evening in July 1952. You disparage all the noble Egyptian men and women who struggled for this cause by referring to it so flippantly.

      • ESSAM HELMY says:

        I am in no way degrading or belittling the 1952 coup that turned revoultion when the EGYPTIANS came out to support the Free Officers thus endowing legitamcy to it. What I am saying is that socialism was the political-social and economic philosophy of the new ruling class. Whether that philoshophy was geniunely applied or implmented is a different issue. However, for the past 60 years all facets of the culture, from education to films, were geared to impue the Egyptians’ psych with socialism thus, negating the role of the individual and his/her rights. The Bill of Rights ,that the readers of this blog are espousing, will not work in the absence of other supporting economic-political-social philosophies.

  32. Valerie says:

    The Egyptian people have been waiting a long time for this moment. I hope the discussion is robust, and fruitful. May your people choose wisely, for the sake of their families, and all the families in Egypt.

  33. Where are we? What year is this? How long have I been asleep? What planet did you come from?

    Do you actually think the Egyptian people will accept these rights? Many, if not most of these rights are simply against the basic values of the Egyptian society and culture. Egypt is not a bunch of Twitter activists.

    This thing will not work unless there is a dictator who will force people to have these rights. Egypt is not the USA.

    • Ayman, Sandmonkey and the Egyptians with Good Will must try to reform their country, because to fail, to allow the Muslim Brotherhood, the Egyptian Nazi Party or other wackos to take power and shape the future along their dreams will spell disaster for all the Egyptians. Not a disaster like a lost war or economic failure, but disaster like extinction, civil war, emigration of the best and the brightest.

      The reserve of money of Egypt are limited and it is more than probable that they will end before year’s end. Then, no more subsides to food and fuel. Then you will see people really starving in the streets. The fertility rate will plummet like never before. No way for people to return to the country and farm a few potatoes or rice or whatever to survive. The future is really bleak, because the entire MENA, not only Egypt, stopped to develop when the westerns went away. No they pay for the sins of their forefathers. No way to escape from this.

      A Bill of Rights would set them (Egyptians) free and able to work and provide for themselves. The regime started by the 1952 coup kept the people poor and in the farms because it was easier to control them. Or poor in the city for the same reason, dependent from the government hand-out. They stopped the modernization of the economy and gave the Egyptians the War against the Zionist Entity to focus them away from the government and its shortcoming.
      No, the money for the hand-out is ending. China and India are richer than before and have the money to buy the food they want. But when food is scarce, its price rising, the are able to continue buying where Egypt is not.

      They embraced freedom and become more powerful, Egypt and the MENA embraced submission and become weak. The US and Europe going farther from freedom than they went anytime before lost part of their power.

  34. Notumbo says:

    I must say, I am so glad I keep peeking into this wonderful new country taking shape Being an American with significantly diminished trust in government as well as sorrow for the tattered shape our own poor democracy finds itself sinking in currently, it gives me at least a little hope to see what so many are trying to do in Egypt to create something new and better for yourselves. I never thought I would be able to witness the process of building a democracy take shape before the eyes of the world.

    I only wish you all the very best, and hope you all, from whatever position and point of view you hold, keep listening to each other as much as you give your ideas, ideals, and aspirations. You may individually not get everything you desire, but as a people, you are sure to get what will do the best for all.

    Best wishes to you all!

  35. Someone says:

    Dear Monkey,

    I really wish you and your friends all the best, but you should wake up. Instead of pursuing a wonderful, but sadly for now unachievable, dream, you should focus on how to stop MB from taking over. You are way underestimating their strength and missing the Obama half support they for some reason enjoys. This was no coincidence that their director of national intelligence told to the congress they are peaceful non violent secular movement.

    Focus on the most urgent matter now. If the MB will lose, than work hard as you can on bills of that kind so what happened to the secular turkey wont happen in Egypt in the future, but again, first we guys must make sure they wont win. They will bring all their supporters to vote, if you wont be able to do the same, you died for nothing, replacing one dictatorship by a one far worse.

  36. Great! But I agree that it should specify that it is the state that must respect and defend these rights.

    Also, what about the individual’s right to privacy and the sanctity of the home?

  37. So, you have played a part in the successful peaceful revolution against an oppressive government. What plans do you have for the future? A role in government of your country or fading back into the private sector? I realize you may not have a clear direction now and that events may change your path. Curiosity makes me ask cause of the years of following your comments and the responses generated. I’ll always look for your musings online. I wish you and your country peace and prosperity.

  38. Dude,

    You just mashed Bill of Rights, UDHR, Charter of Liberties and some philosophy into one document. Which part of what you say is specific to Egypt? There is no specificity or particular consideration of Egypt in this document – how come?

    Even if the objective is to have a literary exercise, this compilation is little better than mediocre.

    All-in-all, a noble vision but a feeble attempt.

  39. I miss development aspects, for example access to water etc.

  40. Thank you Mahmoud for putting out there!! But I do think the “brotherhood” thing is spooking & bretheren sounds like Shakespeare is about to walk in, so yeah je pense que they, their, her/his are all acceptable….some things can be restated in a clearer way but it’s basically what is required prior to he election of Parliament, a Bill of Rights……thank you :) )