On January 12, the Iraqi parliament announced that it had finished its first study of the draft “Information Technology Crimes Law,” the cybercrime law.
This is not the first time this legislative concept has surfaced. A draft regulation with comparable provisions was first mentioned in parliament in 2011. However, it had to be tabled in 2013 following a campaign via worldwide and neighborhood NGOs, which said it might seriously threaten freedom of expression. Under the proposed regulation, the violation of any “spiritual, ethical, family or social standards or values” would be punishable with the aid of a minimum of one year in prison, even as “harming the recognition of us of an” online could carry an existence sentence.
In February 2013, the parliament speaker permitted the parliamentary committee’s request for media and culture to withdraw the law. However, the choice was never introduced to a vote and consequently became not advocated. As a result, the improper text was put aside for over five years.
In October 2018, only weeks after the newly elected parliament held its first session, the cybercrime regulation was resuscitated. Since civil society thought the textual content was old history, its reintroduction got here an ugly wonder. In an extended press release, the parliament emphasized the prevailing prison “loophole” they want to legislate on cyber-illegal activity, pointing out that the 2011 text turned into nevertheless “under attention.”
Interestingly, the click launch refers to two fellow Arab countries, Oman and the United Arab Emirates (UAE), as the pioneers in cybercrime regulation, which handed similar laws in 2001 and 2006, respectively. The click launch no longer says how these laws have been used to crack down on freedom of speech online. A striking example is the sentencing of outstanding award-prevailing human rights defender Ahmed Mansoor to 10 years in prison in May 2018 in the UAE. Mansoor has been accused of, amongst other matters, “seeking to harm the United Arab Emirates (UAE) relationship with its neighbors by publishing false reports and records on social media” beneath the repressive UAE cybercrime law.
The truth that the Iraqi parliament considers such rules as shining examples is frightening. What is worse, underneath the draft bill, an “Iraqi Ahmed Mansoor” could no longer face ten years in jail – he could face a life sentence.
Before the parliamentary session commencing on March 9, all through which the suggestion could pass a second reading, paving the way for its adoption, ten nearby and international NGOs wrote to the Council of Representatives asking it to withdraw the text.
The NGOs slammed the regulation’s vaguely worded provisions – together with acts “undermining the independence, the integrity, and protection of the United States,” “scary sectarian strife,” or “harming the recognition of the United States” – for providing immoderate discretion to the government, as a consequence letting them stifle the freedom of expression protected under Iraqi and global human rights law.
However, it is worth noting that the flow to pass the law did not take location in a vacuum. In 2018, the Iraqi government again closed down the net and blocked social media websites for the duration of the wave of anti-authorities and anti-corruption protests that swept the United States of America. According to the advocacy institution Access Now, Iraq is U. S. A., Which has carried out the 0.33-highest variety of internet shutdowns after India and Pakistan.
Also, Iraqi newshounds and peaceful critics are threatened on an ordinary foundation, subjected to attacks and judicial harassment by national authorities, in addition to militias. Reporters Without Borders considers press freedom a “very horrific” state of affairs in Iraq, ranking one hundred and sixtieth out of one hundred eighty nations in the 2018 World Press Freedom Index.
In this already tricky context, passing the cybercrime regulation could have an unfavorable effect on freedom of expression and proper access to records in Iraq.
The truth that the first deputy speaker of the parliament, Hassan Karim al-Kaabi, recently careworn the need to amend the regulation to make sure it does not warfare with the proper of Iraqis to freedom of expression might be a signal that there is – to a degree – cognizance and political will not adopt the wrong text. However, this can no longer be enough to forestall the rules from being exceeded.
Today, civil society fears that if the text isn’t withdrawn, the cybercrime law’s consideration will be “suspended” until further observation – the parliament’s regular practice of complicated rules.
With this kind of pass, the hassle is that it can lead to the law resurfacing again later. At the same time, it has to be withdrawn and redrafted in consultation with civil society organizations. Article thirteen of the Constitution of Iraq states that no law contradicting constitutional provisions can be enacted, and if it’s far past, it will be considered as “void.”
It has to be clear to Iraqi legislators that the draft cybercrime law contradicts Article 38 of the constitution, which unequivocally ensures the proper freedom of expression. As a result, the draft regulation has to be withdrawn without being similarly put off.