by Max Barry

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The Fundamental Guarantees

"The fundamental purpose of the government of the Federation is to protect the rights of her citizens. No more, and no less." --commentary on the new Constitution from a member of the Twentieth Laurasian Assembly, 1837

The following are the clauses of the Fundamental Guarantees, Mount Shavano's equivalent to the Bill of Rights, with commentary. The entire Constitution is not presented here.

Preamble to the Guarantees. The following natural rights, while not a grant of government, are guaranteed by the Federation government to all Shavanoan citizens. They shall not be infringed by that government, by any subordinate government, or, to the best of the government's ability to prevent it, by any foreign power.

The last clause has on occasion caused diplomatic incident when Shavanoan citizens have gotten in trouble in foreign states for actions that would, back home, be protected under the Guarantees.

I. The right to freedom of speech.

This has always been held to include Freedom of the Press and Freedom of Petition, as well. It has, however, never been held to free people from responsibility for their speech; that is, the illegality of yelling "fire" in a crowded theater is held to be constitutional. Local decency laws placing restrictions for violent, sexual, or crude content in public areas, or on public airwaves during daytime, are not regarded as violations. Local "decency" laws restricting political or religious content however, are accepted as unconstitutional.

II. The right to possess and carry any personal weaponry necessary for self defense against criminals and potential or current tyrants foreign or domestic.

This is a very strong clause, as it explicitly guarantees the right of the citizens to own weaponry up to and including assault rifles, grenade launchers, and shoulder-mounted SAMs. It has not been held to allow the right to specific models of weaponry; generally, weapons used by the modern Federation Military are banned on the grounds of needing to keep their abilities classified.

The Third Guarantee is held to partially overrule this clause, as property owners are given the right to determine who can and cannot carry weapons, and the type of weapons, on their personal property. In practice, this means that even if someone was inclined to walk down the street carrying a rocket launcher, they would likely not be able to leave the sidewalk. By law (but not the Constitution) the government is only allowed to exercise this power on military bases, state and federal capitol buildings, and similar.

III. The right to exercise full control over their own property, unless subject to a legal warrant with reasonable cause.

Similar to the more common "unreasonable search and seizure" phrasing. Yes, this does outlaw eminent domain; No, this obviously does not and has never been taken to apply to illegal or stolen property.

IV. The right to freedom of religious expression, except where that would conflict with other Guarantees or pre-existing law.

The second half is intended to prevent human sacrifice and similar. "Pre-existing law" (a term explicitly defined elsewhere in the Constitution) in this case means Shavanoan law in place before the religion in question arrives there; it is intended to prevent the formation or importation of cults or sects to get around laws prohibiting, for example, child abuse.

Note that this clause is not taken to prevent the government from outward practicing of the (overwhelming majority) Christian religion, only to illegalize government interference with private religious practice.

V. The right to avoid self-incrimination.

Pretty straightforward.

VI. The right to freedom of association and assembly.

This clause allows people absolute freedom in who they choose to associate with. It does not, however, grant the right to, say, block a roadway with your assembly, violate statutes on park curfews, etc.

To avoid potential conflicts on this issue, large parks in plain view of government sites are a common feature of Laurasian cities.

VII. The right to a speedy trial by a jury of peers.

Straightforward.

VIII. The right to face one's accuser.

Pretty straightforward, although "common sense" exceptions somewhat stronger than in some other countries have always been held constitutional. It is much harder to avoid conviction by witness intimidation/mutilation/murder here than some other places. This clause is also held to prevent in absentia trials.

IX. The right to not be held in any form of involuntary servitude.

Straightforward.

X. The right to vote or not vote in all Shavanoan elections in jurisdictions including one's place of residence.

The right to vote is straightforward; the latter clause prohibits citizens being denied representation in any elected legislative or executive body that holds any sway over the location of their legal residence (note that this would make, for example, the condition of Washington D.C. in the current United States unconstitutional in the Federation). The set of laws determining where one votes in national elections if living outside the various states but inside Federation territory is straightforward in the most common cases (military personnel - as original home state, federal district - as one of the neighboring states, which depending on where in the capital you live) but can be byzantine in unusual scenarios.

Note that this clause is held to make poll taxes and voter tests unconstitutional. It also makes certain schemes sometimes practiced in other countries to increase turnout unconstitutional.

XI. The right to not be subject to cruel and unusual punishment.

Note "and" not "or".

XII. The right of freedom of movement within the country, and freedom of travel to and reentry from foreign nations, except in cases of persons being held for trial following legal arrest with sufficient evidence.

Straightforward.

XIII. The right to not be twice placed in jeopardy for the same offense.

Straightforward.

XIV. The right to not forfeit any of these guarantees, except voluntarily or following lawful conviction of a crime for which forfeiture of the specified clause is explicitly noted in the legal code. Guarantees I, IV, V, VII, VIII, XI, XIII, and XIV may not be revoked as legal penalties.

In practice, although in theory a law could specify loss of the protections of Guarantees III or VI, only Guarantees II, IX, X, and XII currently have any laws on the books that could revoke them. The legal warrant clause makes explicitly voiding III kind of pointless (a criminal punishment confiscating property is not a violation and is, in fact, common practice), and there is simply no crime seen at this time as having the revocation of Guarantee VI as a solution. Guarantee XII is of course temporarily forfeitted for anyone convicted of a crime involving prison time, although these are fairly rare in the Shavanoan judicial system.

Note that some items that would be considered fundamental rights elsewhere are enshrined in the Constitution, just not here. For example, equality before the law is established in the section defining citizenship, and ex post facto laws are prohibited (at all levels) in the section defining legislative procedure.

Ex post facto laws are an interesting case. Since it is not formally a Guarantee, it is not covered by the preamble mandate to protect citizens abroad from them. However, almost all Blues (and some Whites) hold that it is a Guarantee for all practical purposes and should be treated as such. This issue has never gone to the courts.

As a side note, the customary reference in general speech is to the "Fundamental Guarantees" or the "Thirteen Guarantees" rather than the "Fourteen Guarantees". This is because the last is seen as explaining the others, and not as a full Guarantee in itself.

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