His Highness the Aga Khan on Tunisia’s New Constitution, with English Translation of the Constitution’s Preamble

The following excerpts are  from an address delivered by His Highness the Aga Khan, 49th Hereditary Imam of the Shia Imami Ismaili Muslims, to both Houses of Parliament in the House of Commons Chamber, Ottawa, on Thursday, February 27, 2014.

His Highness the Aga Khan at the Parliament of Canada

His Highness the Aga Khan at the Parliament of Canada

“You may be surprised to learn that 37 countries throughout the world have adopted a new constitution in the past 10 years and that 12 countries are in the later stages of modernizing their constitutions, which gives us a total of 49 countries. In other words, this movement affects a quarter of the member states of the United Nations. Of these 49 countries, 25% have a Muslim majority. This shows that, today, civil societies’ demand for new constitutional structures has become inevitable.

“…I would like to take a moment to mention a particular difficulty the Muslim world is grappling with. Because of the way religious parties are structured, they support the principle that religion and state are inseparable. Consequently, when those parties are negotiating the terms of a constitution with stakeholders who demand the separation of religion and state, it is difficult to reach a consensus on the supreme law.

“However, one country, the Republic of Tunisia, has recently demonstrated that it is possible. This is not the time or the place to delve into the details of the country’s new constitution. However, it is the result of a truly pluralistic debate, and it appears to contain the rules needed to ensure mutual respect among the various segments of civil society. In particular, the country is embracing the concept of coalition, be it at the electoral or governmental level. That is a great leap forward for the expression of pluralism, which both Canada and the Ismaili Imamate are calling for.

“This change gives rise to hope. The debate and conflict that are inherent in any pluralistic society are no longer taking place in the streets or public squares; they are taking place in the constitutional court, where the rule of law prevails…”

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EXCERPTS FROM THE CONSTITUTION OF THE TUNISIAN REPUBLIC

In the Name of God, the Merciful, the Compassionate

PREAMBLE

We, the representatives of the Tunisian people, members of the National Constituent Assembly,

Taking pride in the struggle of our people to gain independence and build the state, to free ourselves from tyranny, to affirm our free will and to achieve the objectives of the revolution for freedom and dignity, the revolution of December 17, 2010 through January 14, 2011, with loyalty to the blood of our virtuous martyrs, to the sacrifices of Tunisian men and women over the course of generations, and breaking with injustice, inequity, and corruption.

Expressing our people’s commitment to the teachings of Islam, to their spirit of openness and tolerance, to human values and the highest principles of universal human rights, inspired by the heritage of our civilization, accumulated over the travails of our history, from our enlightened reformist movements that are based on the foundations of our Islamic-Arab identity and on the gains of human civilization, and adhering to the national gains achieved by our people;

With a view to building a participatory, democratic, republican system, in the framework of a civil state founded on the law and on the sovereignty of the people, exercised through the peaceful alternation of power through free elections. A political system founded on the principle of the separation and balance of powers, which guarantees the freedom of association in conformity with the principles of pluralism, an impartial administration, and good governance, which are the foundations of political competition, a system that guarantees respect for human rights and freedoms, independence of the judiciary, equality of rights and duties between all citizens, male and female, and equality between all regions;

Based on the elevated status of humankind and desirous of consolidating our cultural and civilizational affiliation to the Arab and Muslim nation, building on our national unity that is based on citizenship, fraternity, solidarity, and social justice, committed to strengthening Maghreb unity as a step towards achieving Arab unity, towards complementarity with the Muslim and African peoples, and towards cooperation with all the peoples of the world, desirous of supporting all victims of injustice, wherever they are, defending the peoples’ right to determine their own destiny, to supporting all just liberation movements, at the forefront of which is the movement for the liberation of Palestine; and opposing all forms of colonization and of racism;

Being aware of the necessity of contributing to the preservation of a healthy environment that guarantees the sustainability of our natural resources and bequeathing a secure life to future generations, realizing the will of the people to be the makers of their own history, believing in science, work, and creativity as noble human values, seeking always to be pioneers, aspiring to contribute to the development of civilization, on the basis of the independence of national decision- making, world peace, and human solidarity;

We, in the name of the Tunisian people, with the help of God, draft this Constitution.

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 His Highness the Aga Khan delivering Brown University's Ogden lecture

His Highness the Aga Khan delivering Brown University’s Ogden lecture

“In Tunisia, just a few weeks ago, a new “consensus” constitution with 94 per cent approval from the elected Constituent Assembly reaffirmed the Islamic identity of the Tunisian state, while also protecting the human rights of religious and ethnic minorities” — His Highness the Aga Khan, Ogden Lecture, Brown University, March 10, 2014

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SELECTED CLAUSES FROM THE TUNISIAN CONSTITUTION

Title One — General Principles

Article 1 Sovereignty, Religion, Language, Government system

Tunisia is a free, independent, sovereign state; its religion is Islam, its language Arabic, and its system is republican.

This article might not be amended.

Article 2 Civil state

Tunisia is a civil state based on citizenship, the will of the people, and the supremacy of law.

This article might not be amended.

Article 3 Popular sovereignty

The people are sovereign and the source of authority, which is exercised through the peoples’ representatives and by referendum.

Article 4 Flag, anthem, motto

The flag of the Tunisian Republic is red and bears in its midst a white circle in which is inscribed a five-pointed star surrounded by a red crescent, as provided for by law.

The national anthem of the Tunisian Republic is “Humat Al-Hima” (Defenders of the Homeland), in accordance with the law.

The motto of the Tunisian Republic of is: freedom, dignity, justice, and order.

Article 5 Arab Maghreb

The Republic of Tunisia is part of the Arab Maghreb and works towards achieving its unity and takes all measures to ensure its realization.

Article 6 Freedom of belief, conscience and religious practice, neutrality of mosques

The state is the guardian of religion. It guarantees freedom of conscience and belief, the free exercise of religious practices and the neutrality of mosques and places of worship from all partisan instrumentalisation.

The State shall commit to spreading the values of moderation and tolerance, protecting sanctities and preventing attacks on them, just as it shall commit to preventing calls of takfeer [calling another Muslim an unbeliever] and incitement to hatred and violence and to confronting them

(Editor’s note – the second paragraph of Article 6 is taken from an unofficial translation supplied by the Jasmine Foundation – it is missing in the translation provided by the UNDP).

Article 7 Family as the basis of society

The family is the nucleus of society and the state shall protect it.

Article 8 Youth

Youth are an active force in building the nation.

The state seeks to provide the necessary conditions for developing the capacities of youth and realizing their potential, supports them to assume responsibility, and strives to extend and generalize their participation in social, economic, cultural and political development.

Title 2 — Rights and Freedoms

Article 21 Equality before the law

All citizens, male and female, have equal rights and duties, and are equal before the law without any discrimination.

The state guarantees freedoms and individual and collective rights to all citizens, and provides all citizens the conditions for a dignified life.

Article 22 Right to life

The right to life is sacred and cannot be prejudiced except in exceptional cases regulated by law.

Article 23 Human dignity, physical integrity

The state protects human dignity and physical integrity, and prohibits mental and physical torture. Crimes of torture are not subject to any statute of limitations.

Article 24 Right to privacy

The state protects the right to privacy and the inviolability of the home, and the confidentiality of correspondence, communications, and personal information.

Every citizen has the right to choose their place of residence, to free movement within the country, and the right to leave the country.

Article 25 Nationality

No citizen shall be deprived of their nationality, exiled, extradited or prevented from returning to their country.

Article 30 Humane treatment in detention

Every prisoner shall have the right to humane treatment that preserves their dignity.

In carrying out a punishment involving the deprivation of liberty, the state shall take into account the interests of the family and shall seek the rehabilitation and re-integration of the prisoner into society.

Article 31 Freedom of opinion, expression, media and publication

Freedom of opinion, thought, expression, information and publication shall be guaranteed.

These freedoms shall not be subject to prior censorship.

Article 38 Health

Health is a right for every human being.

The state shall guarantee preventative health care and treatment for every citizen and provide the means necessary to ensure the safety and quality of health services.

The state shall ensure free health care for those without means and those with limited income. It shall guarantee the right to social assistance in accordance with the law.

Article 39 Education

Education shall be mandatory up to the age of sixteen years.

The state guarantees the right to free public education at all levels and ensures provisions of the necessary resources to achieve a high quality of education, teaching, and training. It shall also work to consolidate the Arab-Muslim identity and national belonging in the young generations, and to strengthen, promote and generalize the use of the Arabic language and to openness to foreign languages, human civilizations and diffusion of the culture of human rights.

Article 42 Culture

The right to culture is guaranteed.

The freedom of creative expression is guaranteed. The state encourages cultural creativity and supports the strengthening of national culture, its diversity and renewal, in promoting the values of tolerance, rejection of violence, openness to different cultures and dialogue between civilizations.

The state shall protect cultural heritage and guarantees it for future generations.

Article 46 Women’s rights

The state commits to protect women’s accrued rights and work to strengthen and develop those rights.

The state guarantees the equality of opportunities between women and men to have access to all levels of responsibility in all domains.

The state works to attain parity between women and men in elected Assemblies.

The state shall take all necessary measures in order to eradicate violence against women.

Article 47 Children

Children are guaranteed the rights to dignity, health, care and education from their parents and the state.

The state must provide all types of protection to all children without discrimination and in accordance with their best interest.

Article 48 Persons with disabilities

The state shall protect persons with disabilities from all forms of discrimination.

Every disabled citizen shall have the right to benefit, according to the nature of the disability, from all measures that will ensure their full integration into society, and the state shall take all necessary measures to achieve this.

Article 58 Oath

Every member in the Assembly of the Representatives of the People shall, upon assuming their functions, swear the following oath:

“I swear, by God Almighty, that I will diligently serve the nation, that I will respect the provisions of the Constitution, and that I will bear full allegiance to Tunisia.”

Title 9 — Final Provisions

Article 145 Preamble

This Constitution’s preamble is an integral part of the Constitution.

Article 146 Constitution provision’s indissoluble whole

The Constitution’s provisions shall be understood and interpreted in harmony, as in indissoluble whole.

And God is the guarantor of success.

Date posted: Wednesday, July 3, 2014.

Editor’s note: The text of the preamble of the Tunisian Constitution as well as selected clauses from the text of the Constitution which are reproduced above are from translations prepared by United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), except where otherwise stated. The Constitution was adopted in a plenary session of the Tunisian National Constituent Assembly, on January 26, 2014.

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Please click on the following links for translations of the Tunisian constitution:

  1. http://www.jasmine-foundation.org/doc/unofficial_english_translation_of_tunisian_constitution_final_ed.pdf

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