20 February 2011
Fifteen Egyptian human rights organisation issued a joint statement criticising the appointment of Tareq al-Bishri, a known moderate Islamist, to head of the committee assigned with amending the Egyptian Constitution. The eight-person committee was appointed by the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces (SCAF) to amend the constitutional articles concerned with parliamentary and presidential elections, and with political rights and freedom, “as it sees fit”.
“The decision of the SCAF to appoint Bishri to lead the committee came as a shock to many of 25 January masses who demonstrated demanding the civil, modern State which Egypt deserves, ” the statement read.
“The shock was not due to any doubts over the efficiency or uprightness of Bishri; his professional history and intellectual works have earned him wide appreciation regardless of whether or not one agrees with him. Bishri, however, is known to be among the leading proponents of political Islam, the numerous books he wrote and lectures he gave expound on the ideology of exploiting religion politically. Such an ideology stands in flagrant contradiction to the concept of the civil State demanded by the demonstrators and cited in the various statements of the SCAF.”
The statement declared that selection of Bishiri as head of the committee instead of a member who represents the political current he belongs to, weakens the credibility of the committee and casts doubts over the objectivity and impartiality of the decisions it takes. This, the statement said, would serve to augment conflicts on the Egyptian street, and reproduce tensions that disappeared with the 25 January revolution.
The statement criticised the fact that the committee is formed of members who endorse the political Islamic stream and others who were part of the previous regime, while experts in constitutional law who are independent of any political affiliation were excluded.
Although the statement said that the reasoning adopted by the SCAF in forming the committee is not known and should have been declared transparently; it called upon the committee to undertake its task according to international constitutional principles and human rights agreements which constitute the basis of constitutions in the free, democratic world. It asked the committee members to put aside all ideological, political, religious, and economic considerations or whims in order to come up with amendments that lead to a fair constitution based on citizenship principles, and equality and justice for all Egyptians. Thus, the statement said, the constitution could become a base for social peace and national unity, not for struggle, tension and conflict.
The signatories asked the SCAF not to single-handedly take decisions to form committees or appoint a new government, but that such decisions should be based on wide communal dialogue and that, preferably, a temporary presidential council should issue such decisions.
The statement demanded of the people who demonstrated and the families whose sons and daughters shed their blood for the sake of change to remain vigilant and to defend the principles of the revolution; accepting no less than a modern, civil, open constitution free of any tyrannical, racial, or ideological undertones that may re-inflame the conflicts settled by the revolution.
Signing the statement were:
The Arab Programme of Human Rights Activists
The Egyptian Organisation of Civil Education and Human Rights
The Egyptian Organisation for Enlightenment
The Egyptian Organisation for Enhancing Societal Participation
Copts for Egypt Movement
The Cairo Centre for Human Rights Studies
The Word Centre for Human Rights
The Egyptian Centre for Human Rights
The Egyptian Centre for Supporting Citizenship and Woman Rights
The Egyptian Centre for Development and Human Rights
The Million Centre for Human Rights
The Scream Centre for the Rights of the Disabled and Child Rights
Egyptians Against Religious Discrimination
The Middle East forum for Freedoms
The Copts of United Kingdom organisation