Looking ahead, Yemenis aspire for a new constitution that fulfills ambitions
The shape of the new state and the wording a new constitution that fulfills people’s aspirations will be discussed during the conference.
Many Yemenis aspire for the new constitution to fulfill ambitions, not just consist of texts ineffective in practice and on the ground.
Wadhah Al-Jaleel, a researcher at the Yemeni Observatory for Human Rights, said Yemenis are crying out for a reconciliatory constitution that defends the rights of everyone—be they minorities, majorities, individuals or groups—without consideration to race, partisanship, ideology or gender. The constitution’s text should guarantee tangible, equal citizenship for all social components, he said.
The constitutional texts should embody equality and protect against any individual or group violations; this requires democracy stipulated and protected by the law, Al-Jaleel said.
“The broad social participation to word this reconciliatory law is a must in order to enable citizens equality and justice.”
Al-Jaleel said the new constitution should be written precisely so that no legislative or executive authority can play with the terminology or use the constitution’s content to appease a particular power, just as it happened in the past.
“The constitution’s paragraphs should be used to stipulate full rights and freedoms; however, one additional sentence could provide an opportunity for decision-makers to act based on their interpretation of the sentence. Thus, rights were confiscated because of imprecise laws.”
“I want to feel the constitution gives me my rights and that it’s not just intimidating terms that could refer me to the court under the pretext of contravening its texts,” Journalist Sakr Abu Hassn said.
Abu Hassn wanted the constitution to be efficacious, detailed and patent, leaving no opportunity for further interpretations. The liberals must have a space in this nation, he said. And, the state should not be dominated by the clerics, in addition to allowing fatwa—which is essentially limited power—to religious constitutions and clerics.
Abdulhafit Muajib, a human rights activist, said the problem in Yemen has nothing to do with constitutional amendments and drafts; what is missing is respect for laws and implementation as well as a free, fair, independent judiciary to apply the law and subsequent justice to those obstructing the law.
He said the current constitution was worded based on the desires of former leaders; this new constitution, he said, will be shaped in accordance with the wishes of Yemen’s new leaders.
Abdulbasit Al-Shaje, a media activist in Sana’a’s Change Square, said he hoped the new constitution would include items that stipulate independence of judiciary so the executive authority is unable to appoint or dismiss judges.
“We want the new constitution to cancel the Media Ministry and organize information access, abolish journalists’ imprisonment or monitoring, give the right for information access and [give the right to] criticize the government.”
The new constitution should consolidate the protection of basic rights and freedoms for citizens, Al-Shaje said.
Abdulaziz Al-Baghdadi, a law expert said the current law is axed and illegitimate according to the Gulf Initiative, which stipulates a new constitution be worded.
He said he hoped the new constitution would fulfill the demands of the revolutionaries and be helpful for building a modern civil state, keeping the authorities separate and independent and determining whether the ruling entity would be the parliament or the president.
“The items of the new constitution should highlight the principles of fundamental rights and freedoms, in addition to allowing citizens the freedom of expression,” Al-Baghdadi said.
With regard to the military, he said the army should be under the control of the Defense and Interior Ministries, not under the thumb of the president. The terminology “chief commander of the army and security forces” ought to be omitted, he said, and military appointments should be the business of these two ministries.
Revolutionary youth hope the new constitution will render the three authorities separate; function to find an atmosphere of freedom, rights and easy access to information; and establish transparency principles, Mohammed Al-Mukbili, a leading figure in Sana’a’s Change Square, said.