An important declaration -- The Casablanca Call for Democracy and Human Rights -- has been signed by 2,200 Arab intellectuals from over 20 countries following the outbreak of recent events in Tunisia and Egypt.
The signatories are politicians, scholars, journalists and civil society advocates from different political persuasions who believe that “democracy and the embodiment of human rights in the Arab world is an absolute necessity and requires a broader engagement of all citizens.” They are greatly concerned about the “backsliding of political reforms in the Arab world.”
Arab intellectuals advocate fighting against the obstacles that continue to prevent the peaceful transfer of power to popular-representative organizations that firmly believe in democracy. They propose the following:
“1- An immediate undertaking of profound and effective political reforms that respect the rule of law and institutional integrity based on the principle of separation of powers. … Confirming the ballot box as the only legitimate method of achieving a peaceful transfer of power, and ensuring the transparency of the electoral process, accepting its results. …
2- Protection of an independent judiciary as a top priority for democratic change, as a prerequisite for the protection of human rights and freedoms, and as the guarantor for the supremacy of the rule of law and state institutions;
3- The immediate release of all political prisoners … and putting an end to political trials of any kind, torture of political opponents, and the practice of kidnapping;
4- Enabling and encouraging political parties and trade unions … to organize freely, use all available media outlets…
5- Acknowledgment of the right of civil society organizations to perform their advocacy roles freely and effectively. … We call upon all Arab governments to engage with civil society organizations in real a partnerships to achieve sustainable human development. …
6- Guarantee of freedom of expression, free access of the media and journalists to information and news sources. The respect for the independence of journalists’ syndicates and allowing them to disseminate information and opinion without censorship. …
7- Development of mechanisms to ensure the neutrality of state institutions and their placement in the direct service of their constituents regardless of political allegiances, and without interference in the affairs of political parties and civil society organizations;
8- Mobilization of all forces and efforts to comply with good governance, political integrity and transparency, and combating corruption … [that] undermines development efforts, drains national resources, and threatens social peace;
9- Summoning of the private sector to play its role in the contribution to political reforms, the preservation of freedoms and to strive for social justice, affirming the strong link between development and democracy, and ensuring transparency and free and fair competition;
10- Supporting efforts to achieve national reconciliation and unity and avoid the dangers that threaten unity, and feed the sectarian, religious, ethnic, and political conflicts that destabilize Arab states and societies;
11- Appealing to democratic forces in the entire world to put pressure on their own governments to refrain from supporting non-democratic regimes in the Arab world, and from adopting double standards in their relations with Arab regimes;
12- Reaffirmation of the interconnectedness of political reform with the renewal of religious thought, which requires support for, and expansion of, the practice of ijtihad in a climate of complete freedom of thought, under democratic systems of government. Furthermore, we support the dialogue that began several years ago between Islamists and secularists. …”
After reading this declaration no one can claim that “democratic exceptionalism” is a Western prerogative.