The undersigned independent rights organizations and institutions unequivocally reject the proposed amendments to Egypt’s constitution; supported by the president and put up for parliamentary debate after their approval by a parliamentary committee on Tuesday. These amendments were drafted specifically to enable President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi to retain power for life and exercise unprecedented unilateral authority; while granting custodianship over Egypt’s constitution and democracy to the military establishment, despite the military’s utter disrespect for both since Sisi’s ascension to power.
The amendments extend the presidential term from four to six years while granting a personal exemption to the current president, allowing him to run for two additional terms. Not only do these individually-tailored provisions flout fundamental legal precepts, they also upend the peaceful rotation of power championed by the Egyptian people in 2011 to prevent another decades-long dictatorial rule similar to that of former President Hosni Mubarak, toppled after 30 years in power.
In fact, the framers of Egypt’s current constitution guarded against such subversions of the people’s will with Article 226, which explicitly prohibits any change to constitutional provisions on presidential re-election and term limits. Current efforts to secure additional presidential terms for Sisi after the end of his second and final term in 2022 are thus an assault on constitutional legitimacy and an intentional undermining of the rule of law, which state institutions should be the first to uphold.
The proposed amendments further eliminate all remnants of judicial independence by immunizing exceptional legislation (issued by the parliament at the behest of the president) from judicial review while constitutionalizing the president’s unilateral authority to appoint judicial leadership (notably the public prosecutor and chief justice of the supreme court) and annul the judiciary’s financial independence. These amendments effectively serve to destroy the constitutional separation of powers, concentrating all authority into the president’s hands and solidifying his authoritarian rule.
The undersigned organizations also condemn the attempt to tamper with Article 204, the constitutional provision barring military trials for civilians. This tampering intends to expand the jurisdiction of exceptional military tribunals over civilians by enshrining, into the Constitution, a law issued by Sisi in 2014 granting the military the authority to protect public facilities (thus sanctioning military trials for any civilian accused of “attacking” such facilities).
Finally, the undersigned denounce the Egyptian government’s disingenuous attempt to sugarcoat its authoritarian power-grab by concurrently proposing amendments designating at least 25 percent of parliamentary seats to women and ensuring appropriate representation for Copts, youth, disabled people, and Egyptian expatriates. Such proposals are not genuine attempts at inclusivity but rather ploys to market the amendments at home and abroad by misappropriating the most vulnerable segments of society, whose rights are regularly and openly violated with the knowledge and complicity of the president and state institutions. Copts in particular have come under systematic attack under the current president amid the collusion of state authorities and their elected representatives in parliament, and with the complicity of the security apparatus.
- Cairo Institute of Human Rights Studies
- Nadeem Center
- Committee for Justice
- Egyptian Commission for Rights and Freedoms
- Egyptian Front for Human Rights
- Andalus Center for Tolerance and Anti-Violence Stdies
- Belady Center for Rights and Freedoms
- The Freedom Initiative
- Adalah Center for Rights and Freedoms
- Egyptian Center for Economic and Social Rights
- Misryoun Against Religious Discrimination (MARED)
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