A Bill of Rights is a grouping of rights that citizens assemble and render constitutional in order to serve as a counterbalance to the powers of the state. Whereas a constitution establishes a state by ceding some rights and responsibilities to a government representing the people (e.g. building roads, public education and security), a Bill of Rights attempts to retain certain rights in order to protect the common citizen from unjust behaviors of the established government (e.g. rights to political representation, gender equality rights and judicial review rights, among others)
The Lebanese Constitution, which was first drafted in 1926, drew heavily on French influence, utilizing a fundamentally Ottoman sectarian framework. Post French mandate, the 1943 and 1990 amendments essentially took the Constitution more into the Lebanese sphere of influence by bringing power into the hands of a select few oligarchs (in 1943, based on feudal leaders; in 1990, based on warlords). Unfortunately, the Lebanese citizens themselves have never really been that involved in the constitutional process. It is therefore no surprise that if one looks at the text of the Lebanese Constitution, the words president, minister and cabinet/parliament combined are mentioned more than 260 times, whereas the word citizen is mentioned only ONCE.
The Lebanese Citizen’s Bill of Rights aims to correct this imbalance by providing a clear set of rights and demands by, of and for the Lebanese citizens to become enshrined in the Lebanese Constitution. It is a legal, political and educational tool that reasserts the power of the Lebanese citizen over the state.
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