Amending 2012 constitution 'not possible': Committee spokesman

Ahram Online, Sunday 8 Sep 2013

Committee of 50 refuses to recognise 'medieval' suspended constitution, will use it only as reference

50-member committee spokesman Mohamed Salmawy

Mohamed Salmawy, spokesman for the 50-member committee tasked with amending the 2012 constitution, said on Sunday that amending the suspended charter is "not possible," calling it "the most backward constitution in Egypt's history."

"Amending the constitution is not possible, as constitutions are not merely a set of articles but rather a soul and a philosophy," Salmawy stated.

Salmawy, in a session convened at the Supreme Council for Culture, added that Egypt is undergoing a new and complex phase that cannot be ruled by a constitution that "sends [Egyptians] back to medieval times."

The Committee of 50, according to Salmawy, does not recognise the suspended constitution – which was drafted and passed during former president Mohamed Morsi's one year in power – and will use it only as a reference.

The committee will consider the proposed amendments drawn-up by the 10-member technical committee responsible for providing the first revision of the 2012 constitution. However, the technical committee's proposals are not binding, and the final decision lies with the Committee of 50.

The presidential decree calling for the 2012 constitution's amendment, issued by interim President Adly Mansour on 8 July, did not state that the Committee of 50 must amend the original constitution, but rather that it should present a final draft of the charter.

Salmawy also stated that the 2012 constitution's controversial Article 219 – which strictly defines Islamic Sharia law – was not included in the revised proposal proffered by the technical committee.

Article 219, added by the Islamist-dominated constituent assembly during the 2012 drafting of Egypt's new constitution, states that "the principles of Islamic Sharia include its commonly accepted interpretations, its fundamental and jurisprudential rules, and its widely considered sources as stated by the schools of Sunna and Gamaa."

Non-Islamist critics charge that Article 219 opens to door to discrimination against non-Sunni minorities and others.

The liberal-leaning former presidential candidate Amr Moussa was elected early Sunday as chairman to the Committee of 50, alongside three deputies: Mona Zulficar, deputy head of the National Council for Human Rights; Kamal El-Helbawy, prominent Islamist thinker and ex-leading Muslim Brotherhood member; and world renowned heart surgeon Magdi Yacoub.

The constitution's final draft must be completed within 60 days of the committee's first session, which was convened on Sunday at the Shura Council building in downtown Cairo. 

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