Qaid Tarboush:Legal scholar focuses on Arab constitutions [Archives:2007/1025/Reportage]

February 15 2007

By: Imad Al-Saqqaf
Qaid Mohammed Tarboush, head of the Constitutional and Legal Research Center in Taiz is one of only a few Yemeni intellectuals to receive a doctorate in law sciences. He has written 17 books on general law and social affairs, as well as a 10-part encyclopedia on Arab regimes. Additionally, he has translated 12 books on Yemeni and legal affairs from Russian into Arabic, published 12 research studies and presented 25 more at numerous symposiums and conferences.

According to Tarboush, the Constitutional and Legal Research Center has begun a process of legal enlightenment in Yemen and Arab states in general by issuing publications on the conditions of Arab regimes in 10 volumes.

The second work is an encyclopaedia (in Arabic) on the world's constitutions, including 150 Arabic constitutional documents. The center has translated 95 constitutions from Asia, Africa, Europe, the United States and Latin America.

“Some nations issue and amend constitutions due to important circumstances and amendments are made when needed, as seen by the political elite of those countries,” Tarboush noted.

According to Tarboush, Arabic readers need to know the relationship between making Arabic law and making foreign law. Readers also need to know the extent to which constitutional legislations recently have been stabilized in the Arab world.

The center's main task is to issue great works that can remain forever. “As part of cooperation, we sometimes contact non-governmental organizations to translate their constitutions.

“The purpose of this is to enable researchers, politicians and anyone interested in learning about the constitutions of all countries, instead of evaluating them without prior knowledge,” he explained.

Constitutional amendments are common in Yemen. Tarboush says if amending the constitution is done for other purposes, then it's not a healthy phenomenon. “But when constitutional amendments are made in order to enact a change, then it's a healthy phenomenon.”

According to Tarboush, the purpose of constitutional amendments whereby there are Parliaments and Shoura Councils is that each can monitor the other. He points out that Third World nations experience constitutional instability because they have no objective circumstances because their countries' regimes are unstable. When coming to power, every new regime introduces new laws and constitutions.

Quota system

Tarboush believes the quota system is the only solution to increasing women's seats in Parliament. “The quota system helps increase the number of women participating in the legislature and local authorities. Some nations like Pakistan, Cambodia, Myanmar and Nepal allocate some constitutional articles for women's seats due to such countries' conditions during the 1940s and 1950s. Women's participation was high, reaching 35 to 40 percent.

“Our political, social and cultural conditions in Yemen are close to these countries. Arab states like Morocco, Tunisia, Egypt, Sudan and Jordan have endorsed the quota system, which has succeeded as women's participation in Parliament has increased remarkably. Here in Yemen, the problem lies in male views of women at the level of political parties. Because of our cultural habits, even women themselves won't vote for a woman.”

Tarboush says the average citizen in the Arab world is unaware of his full rights. “Regimes and governments aren't to be held responsible for not granting citizens their full rights because a citizen sometimes uses his rights wrongly. Media outlets also don't play their effective role because they are busy with politics.”

Local administration problems

The local administration system in Yemen faces numerous problems in applying local administration law, with Tarboush clarifying that the problem is that such law hasn't been understood well. He says the problem lies in applying the law, adding that the central authority is supposed to supervise the local authority, which in turn should supervise local councils, etc.

President Ali Abdullah Saleh recently announced that governors and heads of districts should be elected, “however, the exact formula hasn't been crystallized regarding this issue,” Tarboush notes.

“Through local governance system law No. 4, we find that it's not conditional that a district secretary-general be a university graduate or at least 30 years old with professional experience. I don't think this project [electing governors and district heads] will ignore the requirements for governor and district heads. Regardless, political statements must be applied on the ground,” he concluded.