Committee on International Relations
U.S. House of Representatives
Henry J. Hyde, Chairman
CONTACT: Sam Stratman, (202) 226-7875, November 18, 2003
For IMMEDIATE Release
Afghanistan Constitution and Prospects for Democracy
HIRC hearing on political developments scheduled Wednesday
BACKGROUND: The next major step in the political reconstruction of Afghanistan, as outlined by the Bonn Conference agreement of 2001, is adoption of a constitution in December and subsequent national elections for government leaders and parliament. The draft constitution, crafted by a 35-member commission, establishes a governmental structure with a strong elected presidency, subject to substantial checks and balances by an elected parliament. The draft sets up a two-chamber parliament, to be elected one year after the presidential elections. The draft gives the president the ability to appoint one-third of the seats for the upper chamber (Meshrano Jirga, House of Elders), and stipulates that half his appointments should be women. The lower house (Wolesi Jirga, House of People) is to be fully elected. The draft constitution designates former King Zahir Shah as ceremonial "father of the nation," but gives him no formal role in governance. The draft does not impose Sharia (Islamic law), but it does attempt to satisfy Afghanistans conservative clerics by stipulating that laws should not contradict Islamic law. Protections for minorities are also written into the draft. However, some observers say the draft constitution does not provide sufficient protections for human rights, such as for freedom of speech and religion, and that it places the freedoms of Afghans in the hands of judges educated in Islamic law, rather than civil law.
WHAT: Joint subcommittee oversight hearing: Afghanistan: Democratization and Human Rights on the Eve of the Constitutional Loya Jirga
U.S. Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, Chair, Subcommittee on the Middle East and
U.S. Rep. Elton Gallegly, Chairman, Subcommittee on Intl Terrorism, Nonproliferation and Human Rights.
WHEN: 1:30 p.m., Wednesday, November 19, 2003
WHERE: 2172 Rayburn House Office Building
WITNESSES:Lorne W. Craner, Assistant Secretary, Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights and Labor, U.S. Dept of State; John C. Hanford III, Ambassador-at-Large, Office of International Religious Freedom, U.S. Dept. of State; Christina Rocca, Assistant Secretary, Bureau of South Asian Affairs, U.S. Dept. Of State; Mariam A. Nawabi, Legal Advisor to the Constitutional Drafting Commission of Afghanistan, Dechert, LLP; T. Kumar, Advocacy Director for Asia and Pacific, Amnesty International, U.S.A; Barbara Haig, Vice President of Programs, Planning and Evaluation, National Endowment for Democracy; and Mark Schneider, Senior Vice President, International Crisis Group.
Among the questions/issues expected to be addressed during the hearing:
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