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Constitution of Eritrea (1997)

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3Preamble

4We, the people of Eritrea, united in a common struggle for our rights and common destiny:

5With Eternal Gratitude to the scores of thousands of our martyrs who sacrificed their lives for the causes of our rights and independence, during the long and heroic revolutionary struggle for liberation, and to the courage and steadfastness of our Eritrean patriots; and standing on the solid ground of unity and justice bequeathed by our martyrs and combatants;

6Aware that it is the sacred duty of all citizens to build a strong and advanced Eritrea on the bases of freedom, unity, peace, stability and security achieved through the long struggle of all Eritreans, which tradition we must cherish, preserve and develop;

7Realizing that in order to build an advanced country, it is necessary that the unity, equality, love for truth and justice, self-reliance, and hard work, which we nurtured during our revolutionary struggle for independence and which helped us to triumph, must become the core of our national values;

8Appreciating the fact that for the development and health of our society, it is necessary that we inherit and improve upon the traditional community-based assistance and fraternity, love for family, respect for elders, mutual respect and consideration;

9Convinced that the establishment of a democratic order, through the participation of and in response to the needs and interests of citizens, which guarantees the recognition and protection of the rights of citizens, human dignity, equality, balanced development and the satisfaction of the material and spiritual needs of citizens, is the foundation of economic growth, social harmony and progress;

10Noting the fact that the Eritrean women's heroic participation in the struggle for independence, human rights and solidarity, based on equality and mutual respect, generated by such struggle will serve as an unshakable foundation for our commitment to create a society in which women and men shall interact on the bases of mutual respect, solidarity and equality;

11Desirous that the Constitution we are adopting will be a covenant between us and the government, which we will be forming by our free will, to serve as a means for governing in harmony this and future generations and for bringing about justice and peace, founded on democracy, national unity and the rule of law;

12Today, 23 May 1997, on this historic date, after active popular participation, approve and solemnly ratify, through the Constituent Assembly, this Constitution as the fundamental law of our Sovereign and Independent State of Eritrea.

13CHAPTER I. GENERAL PROVISIONS

14Article 1. The State of Eritrea and its Territory

151. Eritrea is a sovereign and independent State founded on the principles of democracy, social justice and the rule of law.

162. The territory of Eritrea consists of all its territories, including the islands, territorial waters and airspace, delineated by recognized boundaries.

173. In the State of Eritrea, sovereign power is vested in the people, and shall be exercised pursuant to the provisions of this Constitution.

184. The government of Eritrea shall be established through democratic procedures to represent people's sovereignty and shall have strong institutions, accommodating popular participation and serving as foundation of a viable democratic political order.

195. Eritrea is a unitary State divided into units of local government. The powers and duties of these units shall be determined by law.

20Article 2. Supremacy of the Constitution

211. This Constitution is the legal expression of the sovereignty of the Eritrean people.

222. This Constitution enunciates the principles on which the State is based and by which it shall be guided and determines the organization and operation of government. It is the source of government legitimacy and the basis for the protection of the rights, freedoms and dignity of citizens and of just administration.

233. This Constitution is the supreme law of the country and the source of all laws of the State, and all laws, orders and acts contrary to its letter and spirit shall be null and void.

244. All organs of the State, all public and private associations and institutions and all citizens shall be bound by and remain loyal to the Constitution and shall ensure its observance.

255. This Constitution shall serve as a basis for instilling constitutional culture and for enlightening citizens to respect fundamental human rights and duties.

26Article 3. Citizenship

271. Any person born of an Eritrean father or mother is an Eritrean by birth.

282. Any foreign citizen may acquire Eritrean citizenship pursuant to law.

293. The details concerning citizenship shall be regulated by law.

30Article 4. National Symbols and Languages

311. The Eritrean Flag shall have green, red and blue colors with golden olive leaves. The detailed description of the Flag shall be determined by law.

322. Eritrea shall have a National Anthem and a Coat of Arms reflecting the history and the aspiration of its people. The details of the National Anthem and the Coat of Arms shall be determined by law.

333. The equality of all Eritrean languages is guaranteed.

34Article 5. Gender Reference

35Without consideration to the wording of any provision in this Constitution with reference to gender, all of its articles shall apply equally to both genders.

36CHAPTER II. NATIONAL OBJECTIVES and DIRECTIVE PRINCIPLES

37Article 6. National Unity and Stability

381. As the people and government strive to establish a united and advanced country, within the context of the diversity of Eritrea, they shall be guided by the basic principle "unity in diversity."

392. The State shall, through participation of all citizens, ensure national stability and development by encouraging democratic dialogue and national consensus; and by laying a firm political, cultural and moral foundation of national unity and social harmony.

403. The State shall ensure peaceful and stable conditions by establishing appropriate participatory institutions that guarantee and hasten equitable economic and social progress.

41Article 7. Democratic Principles

421. It is a fundamental principle of the State of Eritrea to guarantee its citizens broad and active participation in all political, economic, social and cultural life of the country.

432. Any act that violates the human rights of women or limits or otherwise thwarts their role and participation is prohibited.

443. There shall be established appropriate institutions to encourage and develop people's initiative and participation in their communities.

454. Pursuant to the provisions of this Constitution and laws enacted pursuant thereto, all Eritreans, without distinction, are guaranteed equal opportunity to participate in any position of leadership in the country.

465. The conduct of the affairs of government and all organizations and institutions shall be accountable and transparent.

476. The organization and operation of all political, public associations and movements shall be guided by the principles of national unity and democracy.

487. The State shall create conditions necessary for developing a democratic political culture defined by free and critical thinking, tolerance and national consensus.

49Article 8. Economic and Social Development

501. The State shall strive to create opportunities to ensure the fulfillment of citizens' rights to social justice and economic development and to fulfill their material and spiritual needs.

512. The State shall work to bring about a balanced and sustainable development throughout the country, and shall use all available means to enable all citizens to improve their livelihood in a sustainable manner, through their participation.

523. In the interest of present and future generations, the State shall be responsible for managing all land, water, air and natural resources and for ensuring their management in a balanced and sustainable manner; and for creating the right conditions to secure the participation of the people in safeguarding the environment.

53Article 9. National Culture

541. The State shall be responsible for creating and promoting conditions conducive for developing a national culture capable of expressing national identity, unity and progress of the Eritrean people.

552. The State shall encourage values of community solidarity and love and respect of the family.

563. The State shall promote the development of the arts, science, technology and sports and shall create an enabling environment for individuals to work in an atmosphere of freedom and to manifest their creativity and innovation.

57Article 10. Competent Justice System

581. The justice system of Eritrea shall be independent, competent and accountable pursuant to the provisions of the Constitution and laws.

592. Courts shall work under a judicial system that is capable of producing quick and equitable judgments and that can easily be understood by and is accessible to all the people.

603 Judges shall be free from corruption or discrimination and, in rendering their judgment, they shall make no distinction among persons.

614. The State shall encourage equitable out-of-court settlement of disputes through conciliation, mediation or arbitration.

62Article 11. Competent Civil Service

631. The Civil Service of Eritrea shall have efficient, effective and accountable administrative institutions dedicated to the service of the people.

642. All administrative institutions shall be free from corruption, discrimination and delay in the delivery of efficient and equitable public services.

65Article 12. National Defense and Security

661. The defense and security forces of Eritrea shall owe allegiance to and obey the Constitution and the government established thereunder.

672. The defense and security forces are an integral part of society, and shall be productive and respectful of the people.

683. The defense and security forces shall be competent and be subject to and accountable under the law.

694. The defense and security of Eritrea depend on the people and on their active participation.

70Article 13. Foreign Policy

71The foreign policy of Eritrea is based on respect for state sovereignty and independence and on promoting the interest of regional and international peace, cooperation, stability and development.

72CHAPTER III. FUNDAMENTAL RIGHTS, FREEDOMS AND DUTIES

73Article 14. Equality under the Law

741. All persons are equal under the law.

752. No person may be discriminated against on account of race, ethnic origin, language, color, gender, religion, disability, age, political view, or social or economic status or any other improper factors.

763. The National Assembly shall enact laws that can assist in eliminating inequalities existing in the Eritrean society.

77Article 15. Right to Life and Liberty

781. No person shall be deprived of life without due process of law.

792. No person shall be deprived of liberty without due process of law.

80Article 16. Right to Human Dignity

811. The dignity of all persons shall be inviolable.

822. No person shall be subjected to torture or to cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment.

833. No person shall be held in slavery or servitude nor shall any person be required to perform forced labor not authorized by law.

84Article 17. Arrest, Detention and Fair Trial

851. No person may be arrested or detained save pursuant to due process of law.

862. No person shall be tried or convicted for any act or omission which did not constitute a criminal offense at the time when it was committed.

873. Every person arrested or detained shall be informed of the grounds for his arrest or detention and of the rights he has in connection with his arrest or detention in a language he understands.

884. Every person who is held in detention shall be brought before a court of law within forty-eight (48) hours of his arrest, and if this is not reasonably possible, as soon as possible thereafter, and no such person shall be held in custody beyond such period without the authority of the court.

895. Every person shall have the right to petition a court of law for a Writ of Habeas Corpus. Where the arresting officer fails to bring the person arrested before the court and provide the reason for his arrest, the court shall accept the petition and order the release of the prisoner.

906. Every person charged with an offense shall be entitled to a fair, speedy and public hearing by a court of law; provided, however, that such a court may exclude the press and the public from all or any part of the trial for reasons of morals or national security, as may be necessary in a just and democratic society.

917. A person charged with an offense shall be presumed to be innocent, and shall not be punished, unless he is found guilty by a court of law.

928. Where an accused is convicted, he shall have the right to appeal. No person shall be liable to be tried again for any criminal offense on which judgement has been rendered.

93Article 18. Right to Privacy

941. Every person shall have the right to privacy.

952. a. No person shall be subject to body search, nor shall his premises be entered into or searched or his communications, correspondence, or other property be interfered with, without reasonable cause.

96b. No search warrant shall issue, save upon probable cause, supported by oath, and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized.

97Article 19. Freedom of Conscience, Religion, Expression of Opinion, Movement, Assembly and Organization

981. Every person shall have the right to freedom of thought, conscience and belief.

992. Every person shall have the freedom of speech and expression, including freedom of the press and other media.

1003. Every citizen shall have the right of access to information.

1014. Every person shall have the freedom to practice any religion and to manifest such practice.

1025. All persons shall have the right to assembly and to demonstrate peaceably together with others.

1036. Every citizen shall have the right to form organizations for political, social, economic and cultural ends.

1047. Every citizen shall have the right to practice any lawful profession, or engage in any occupation or trade.

1058. Every citizen shall have the right to move freely throughout Eritrea or reside and settle in any part thereof.

1069. Every citizen shall have the right to leave and return to Eritrea and to be provided with passport or any other travel documents.

107Article 20. Right to Vote and to be a Candidate to an Elective Office

108Every citizen who fulfills the requirements of the electoral law shall have the right to vote and to seek elective office.

109Article 21. Economic, Social and Cultural Rights and Responsibilities

1101. Every citizen shall have the right of equal access to publicly funded social services. The State shall endeavor, within the limit of its resources, to make available to all citizens health, education, cultural and other social services.

1112. The State shall secure, within available means, the social welfare of all citizens and particularly those disadvantaged.

1123. Every citizen shall have the right to participate freely in any economic activity and to engage in any lawful business.

1134. The State and society shall have the responsibility of identifying, preserving and developing, as need be, and bequeathing to succeeding generations historical and cultural heritage; and shall lay the necessary groundwork for the development of the arts, science, technology and sports, thus encouraging citizens to participate in such endeavors.

1145. The National Assembly shall enact laws guaranteeing and securing the social welfare of citizens, the rights and conditions of labor and other rights and responsibilities listed in this Article.

115Article 22. Family

1161. The family is the natural and fundamental unit of society and is entitled to the protection and special care of the State and society.

1172. Men and women of full legal age shall have the right, upon their consent, to marry and to found a family freely, without any discrimination and they shall have equal rights and duties as to all family affairs.

1183. Parents have the right and duty to bring up their children with due care and affection; and, in turn, children have the right and the duty to respect their parents and to sustain them in their old age.

119Article 23. Right to Property

1201. Subject to the provisions of Sub-Article 2 of this Article, any citizen shall have the right, anywhere in Eritrea, to acquire and dispose property, individually or in association with others, and to bequeath the same to his heirs or legatees.

1212. All land and all natural resources below and above the surface of the territory of Eritrea belongs to the State. The interests citizens shall have in land shall be determined by law.

1223. The State may, in the national or public interest, take property, subject to the payment of just compensation and in accordance with due process of law.

123Article 24. Administrative Redress

1241. Any person with an administrative question shall have the right to be heard respectfully by the administrative officials concerned and to receive quick and equitable answers from them.

1252. Any person with an administrative question, whose rights or interests are interfered with or threatened, shall have the right to seek due administrative redress.

126Article 25. Duties of Citizens

127All citizens shall have the duty to:

128 1.owe allegiance to Eritrea, strive for its development and promote its prosperity;

129 2.be ready to defend the country;

130 3.complete one's duty in national service;

131 4.advance national unity;

132 5.respect and defend the Constitution;

133 6.respect the rights of others; and

134 7.comply with the requirements of the law.

135Article 26. Limitation Upon Fundamental Rights and Freedoms

1361. The fundamental rights and freedoms guaranteed under this Constitution may be limited only in so far as in the interests of national security, public safety or the economic well-being of the country, health or morals, for the prevention of public disorder or crime or for the protection of the rights and freedoms of others.

1372. Any law providing for the limitation of the fundamental rights and freedoms guaranteed in this Constitution must:

138 a.be consistent with the principles of democracy and justice;

139 b.be of general application and not negate the essential content of the right or freedom in question;

140 c.specify the ascertainable extent of such limitation and identify the article or articles hereof on which authority to enact such limitation is claimed to rest.

1413. The provisions of Sub-Article 1 of this Article shall not be used to limit the fundamental rights and freedoms guaranteed under Articles 14(1) and (2); 15; 16; 17(2), (5), (7) and (8); and 19(1) of this Constitution.

142Article 27. State of Emergency

1431. At a time when public safety or the security or stability of the State is threatened by war, external invasion, civil disorder or natural disaster, the President may by a proclamation published in the Official Gazette declare that a state of emergency exists in Eritrea or any part thereof.

1442. A declaration under Sub-Article 1 of this Article shall not become effective unless approved by a resolution passed by a two-thirds majority vote of all members of the National Assembly. A declaration made when the National Assembly is in session shall be presented within two days after its publication, or otherwise, the National Assembly shall be summoned to meet and consider the declaration within thirty days of its publication.

1453. A declaration approved by the National Assembly pursuant to Sub-Article 2 of this Article shall continue to be in force for a period of six months after such approval. The National Assembly may, by a resolution of two-thirds majority vote of all its members, extend its approval of the declaration for a period of three months at a time.

1464. The National Assembly may, at any time, by resolution revoke a declaration approved by it pursuant to the provisions of this Article.

1475. A declaration of a state of emergency or any measures undertaken or laws enacted pursuant to it shall not:

148 a.suspend Articles 14(1) and (2); 16; 17(2); and 19(1) of the Constitution;

149 b.grant pardon or amnesty to any person or persons who, acting under the authority of the State, have committed illegal acts; or

150 c.introduce martial law when there is no external invasion or civil disorder.

151Article 28. Enforcement of Fundamental Rights and Freedoms

1521. The National Assembly or any subordinate legislative authority shall not make any law, and the Executive and the agencies of government shall not take any action that abolishes or abridges the fundamental rights and freedoms conferred by this Constitution, unless so authorized by this Constitution. Any law or action in violation thereof shall be null and void.

1532. Any aggrieved person who claims that a fundamental right or freedom guaranteed by this Constitution has been denied or violated shall be entitled to petition a competent court for redress. Where it ascertains that such fundamental right or freedom has been denied or violated, the court shall have the power to make all such orders as shall be necessary to secure for such petitioner the enjoyment of such fundamental right or freedom, and where such applicant suffers damage, to include an award of monetary compensation.

154Article 29. Residual Rights

155The rights enumerated in this Chapter shall not preclude other rights which ensue from the spirit of this Constitution and the principles of a society based on social justice, democracy and the rule of law.

156CHAPTER IV. THE NATIONAL ASSEMBLY

157Article 30. Representation of the People

1581. All Eritrean citizens, of eighteen years of age or more, shall have the right to vote.

1592. The National Assembly shall enact an electoral law, which shall ensure the representation and participation of the Eritrean people.

160Article 31. Establishment and Duration of the National Assembly

1611. There shall be a National Assembly which shall be the supreme representative and legislative body.

1622. The National Assembly shall be composed of representatives elected by the people.

1633. Members of the National Assembly shall be elected by secret ballot of all citizens who are qualified to vote.

1644. Members of the National Assembly are representatives of the Eritrean people as a whole. In discharging their duties, they are governed by the objectives and principles of the Constitution, the interest of the people and the country and their conscience.

1655. The first session of the National Assembly shall be held within one month after a general election. The term of the National Assembly shall be five years from the date of such first session. Where there exists a state of emergency which prevents a general election from being held, the National Assembly may, by a resolution supported by not less than two-thirds vote of all its members, extend the life of the National Assembly for a period not exceeding six months.

1666. The qualifications and election of the members of the National Assembly, the conditions for vacating their seats and other related matters shall be determined by law.

167Article 32. Powers and Duties of the National Assembly

1681. Pursuant to the provisions of this Constitution:

169 a.the National Assembly shall have the power to enact laws and pass resolutions for peace, stability, development and social justice of Eritrea;

170 b.unless authorized pursuant to the provisions of this Constitution and law enacted by the National Assembly, no person or organization shall have the power to make decisions having the force of law.

1712. The National Assembly shall be bound by the objectives and principles of the Constitution, and shall strive to realize the objectives stated therein.

1723. The National Assembly shall approve the national budget and enact tax laws.

1734. The National Assembly shall ratify international agreements by law.

1745. The National Assembly shall have the power to approve government borrowing.

1756. The National Assembly shall approve a state of peace, war or national emergency.

1767. The National Assembly shall have the power to oversee the execution of laws.

1778. The National Assembly shall have the power to elect, from among its members, by an absolute majority vote of all its members, the President who shall serve for five years.

1789. Pursuant to the provisions of Article 41(6)(a), (b) and (c) hereof, the National Assembly may, by a two-thirds majority vote of all its members, impeach or impeach and charge the President before the end of his term of office.

17910. The National Assembly shall have the power to approve an appointment pursuant to this Constitution.

18011. The National Assembly shall establish a standing committee to deal with citizens petitions.

18112. The National Assembly shall have the power to enact all such laws and pass all resolutions and to undertake all such measures as are necessary and to establish such standing or ad hoc committees as it deems appropriate for discharging its constitutional responsibilities.

182Article 33. Approval of Draft Legislation

183Any draft law approved by the National Assembly shall be transmitted to the President who, within thirty days of its receipt, shall sign and have it published in the Official Gazette.

184Article 34. Chairperson of the National Assembly

1851. During the first meeting of its first session, the National Assembly shall elect, by an absolute majority vote of all its members, a Chairperson who shall serve for five years.

1862. The Chairperson of the National Assembly shall convene all sessions of the National Assembly and preside at its meetings, and shall, during the recess, coordinate and supervise the operations of the standing and ad hoc committees and the Secretariat of the National Assembly.

1873. The Chairperson of the National Assembly may be replaced by an absolute majority vote of all the members of the National Assembly.

188Article 35. Oath

189Every member of the National Assembly shall take the following oath:

190I, ........................., swear in ...................... that I will be faithful and worthy of the trust the Eritrean people placed on me; that I will uphold and defend the Constitution of Eritrea; and that I will endeavor to the best of my ability and conscience for the unity and development of my country.

191Article 36. Rules of Procedure in the National Assembly

1921. The National Assembly shall have regular sessions and shall determine the timing and duration thereof.

1932. At the request of the President, its Chairperson or one-third of all its members, the National Assembly shall convene emergency meetings.

1943. The quorum of the National Assembly shall be fifty percent of all its members.

1954. Except as otherwise prescribed by this Constitution, any question proposed for decision of the National Assembly shall be determined by a majority vote of those present and voting, and in case of a tie of votes, the Chairperson may exercise a casting vote.

1965. The National Assembly shall issue rules and regulations concerning its operations and tasks and the organization of the standing and ad hoc committees and its Secretariat, as well as the rules governing the code of conduct of its members and transparency of its operations.

197Article 37. Office of the National Assembly and Powers of its Committees

1981. The National Assembly shall, under the direction of its chairperson, have a Secretariat, which shall provide services to the National Assembly and its committees.

1992. The various committees established pursuant to the provisions of Article 32(12) shall have the power to summon any person to appear before them to give evidence under oath or to submit documents.

200Article 38. Duties, Immunities and Privileges of Members of the National Assembly

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