Freedom of expression is underneath hazard in Iraq, once more
On January 12, the Iraqi parliament announced that it had finished its first studying of the draft “Information Technology Crimes Law,” otherwise called the cybercrime law.
This is not the primary time this legislative concept surfaces. A draft regulation with comparable provisions was first mentioned in parliament 2011, however, had to be tabled in 2013 following a campaign via worldwide and neighborhood NGOs, which said it might seriously threaten freedom of expression within us of a. Under the proposed regulation, the violation of any “spiritual, ethical, family or social standards or values” would be punishable with the aid of as a minimum one year in prison, even as “harming the recognition of us of an” online could carry an existence sentence.
Back in February 2013, the parliament speaker permitted the request of the parliamentary committee for media and culture’s to withdraw the law. However, the choice became never introduced to a vote and consequently became in no way advocated. As a result, the improper text changed into put aside for over five years.
In October 2018, only some weeks after the newly elected parliament held its first session; the cybercrime regulation became resuscitated. Since civil society thought the textual content was old history, its reintroduction got here as an ugly wonder. In an extended press release, the parliament emphasized the prevailing prison “loophole,” and 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 law in 2001 and 2006 respectively.
What the click launch does no longer say is how these laws have because 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 turned into accused of, amongst different matters, “seeking to harm the relationship of the United Arab Emirates (UAE) 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 past 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 well worth noting that the flow to pass the law did now not take location in a vacuum. In 2018, the Iraqi government, again and again, close down the net and blocked social media web sites for the duration of the wave of anti-authorities and anti-corruption protests that swept via the united states of America. According to 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 also threatened on an ordinary foundation, subjected to attacks and judicial harassment by national authorities, in addition to militias. Reporters Without Borders considers press freedom to be in a “very horrific” state of affairs in Iraq, which ranks one hundred and sixtieth out of one hundred eighty nations at 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 the proper to access 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 to 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 consideration of the cybercrime law will be “suspended” till further observe – the parliament’s regular practice in terms of complicated rules.
The hassle with this kind of pass is that it can lead to the law resurfacing over again at a later date, while 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 passed, it will be taken into consideration 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 to freedom of expression. As a result, the draft regulation has to be withdrawn without similarly put off.