The NGO considers that this repression “reveals its flagrant contempt for the sacrifices of the population in the 2019 uprising”
July 18 (EUROPA PRESS) –
Amnesty International has denounced this Thursday the presentation of two bills in the Iraqi Parliament, whose approval would restrict the rights of freedom of expression and peaceful assembly of the Iraqi population, at a time when there is an “avalanche of prosecutions of people critical of government figures”.
“The latest attempt by the Iraqi authorities to crack down on freedom of expression reveals their blatant disregard for the extraordinary sacrifices made by the Iraqi people during the 2019 uprising to guarantee their freedoms,” said Bissan Fakih, AI’s regional officer for Iraq and Yemen.
The head of AI has remarked that these rights are “especially important at a time when the population tries to hold their government representatives accountable for complaints of systematic corruption and violations of Human Rights.”
The bill gives the Iraqi authorities the cover to arbitrarily prosecute anyone who violates “public morals” or “public order.” Meanwhile, under the cybercrime bill, those who post content deemed to violate the “supreme economic, political, military or security interests of the country” could be sentenced to life imprisonment and a fine of up to 50 million dinars. Iraqis (about 34,000 euros).
“The Government of Iraq must immediately withdraw these repressive bills and Parliament must not approve any law that unduly restricts Human Rights (in the country),” said Fakih, who recalled that in April this year the Government reaffirmed his promise to the NGO to defend and protect the right of free expression. “But his actions in Parliament do not correspond to his words,” he denounced.
Parliament held a second reading of the law in May and the speaker of the chamber, Mohamed al Halbusi, can call a general vote at any time. However, lawmakers are privately debating the amendments to both bills.
The NGO has indicated that the presentation of these bills is added to the opening of cases by critical people against members of the Government, as well as a campaign launched by the Ministry of the Interior to repress “indecent content” on the Internet, reads a statement in which the Internet and Social Networks Foundation (INSM) for Digital Rights in Iraq also participated.
“The Iraqi population has the right to criticize their leaders and religious figures, and to protest peacefully without fear of being imprisoned or being heavily fined,” Fakih said, adding that between January and June of this year the authorities have prosecuted twenty people for freedom of expression, six of them sentenced to prison terms.
AI has met in Baghdad with human rights defenders and activists who have expressed alarm that the bills would empower authorities to crack down on peaceful dissent. In fact, the country’s courts are trying a journalist, Haidar al-Hamdani, for a defamation lawsuit filed by the governor of Basra, whom he had accused of corruption.
The aforementioned NGO has remarked that the country’s security agencies already repress those who demonstrate, so that the risk to the population increases each time the authorities consider that a protest is “unauthorized.” This is because people resort to the use of force to disperse them, as happened in the 2019 anti-government demonstrations, when at least 600 protesters lost their lives and thousands were injured.