A Victory for Freedom of Expression in Iraq: Iraqi Council of Representatives Repeal Cyber Law
ICSSI congratulates Iraqi civil society for its victory on the repeal of the Draft Informatics Crimes Law. We recognize the influence of the Iraqi Network for Social Media (IN4SM), Society For Defending Press Freedom in Iraq, and Iraqi Street for their effective in advocating for the cancellation of the law. We recognize the positive role of the Iraqi Council of Representatives (CoR) in this important accomplishment. We hope that this victory will open new possibilities for civil society and the Iraqi politicians to work together to protect freedom of expression in Iraq. After more than one year of advocacy to repeal this law, on January 22, 2013, the Civil Society committee in the Iraqi CoR, sent a formal letter to the Presidency of the Council of Representatives urging them to stop the enactment of the Draft Informatics Crimes Law, which violates users’ freedom to use the Internet, and were to impose penalties of up to life imprisonment and fines of up to 50 million Iraqi dinars (about 40 thousand U.S. dollars) as a result of violations to this law. The Speaker of Iraqi Council of Representatives approved the request and the process of drafting this law is stopped. According to a legal analysis by Article 19, the law “distorted the legitimate basis of imposing restrictions to the right to freedom of expression and access to information”. For example, Article 3 of the draft law “prohibits computer use that compromises the independence of the state or its unity, integrity, safety or any of its high economic, political, social, military or security interests” essentially granting the law enforcement the power to sensor any electronic expression that it deems necessary. Article 3 was one of the provisions carrying a maximum life sentence imprisonment. According to the same analysis, the Iraqi Government sought to “grant itself the legal authority to impose its own moral code on the people of Iraq. Article 21 (b) imposes severe custodial and financial penalties on “whoever violates principles, religious, moral, family, or social values … through information networks or computers and by failing to protect the rights of journalists to protect their sources (Article 13 (1)(c)).
Iraqi Network for Social Media in cooperation with some international organizations presented an open letter (a total of 44 international organizations signed the letter) to stop the enactment of cybercrime in Iraq. Passing of this law was not in accordance with international law or the Iraqi constitution that
The Society For Defending Press Freedom has implemented an advocacy campaign in which the it asked for the formal position form the CoR to stop the law. The society expressed its pleased for the cancelation for that draft law, and is demanding the Parliament to work proactively and to end the previous regime laws, which limited the freedom, peaceful demonstrations, communication and information in Iraq.