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Human Rights in the Constitution: A Survey of the Arab Uprisings

This article was published by the Arab Center Washington DC, where the author spoke at an event last month on “Arab Constitutions in the 21st Century.”

When Arab citizens took to the streets in peaceful uprisings throughout 2011, their demands included “freedom,” “justice,” and “dignity.” Their governments reacted in varied ways, with some heads of state ultimately resigning their positions and others, intensifying a brutal crackdown. There is one development that Tunisia, Egypt, Yemen, Bahrain, Libya, and Syria—the six nations of the “Arab Uprisings”—have in common: each witnessed either an attempted or successful amending or drafting of a constitution in the wake of popular protests.

In light of the fact that many of the people’s demands in 2011 were demands for the respect of human rights—whether social, political, economic, or cultural—and that many of the countries in question continue to depict problematic human rights records six years later, it becomes a useful exercise to survey the status of human rights in the countries’ constitutions. It is only by doing so, that one can identify problems within the countries’ legal schemes, propose amendments, and guarantee institutions fixes for human rights across the region.

The rest of the article can be read here, on the website of the Arab Center Washington DC.