Iran urged to scrap draft law undermining independent NGOs

The Iranian parliament must scrap a draft law which will seriously undermine independent non-governmental organizations in Iran, Amnesty International said today.The bill, which has been extensively analyzed by the Netherlands-based NGO Arseh Sevom, requires all NGOs in Iran to register with a new and unaccountable body linked to the Intelligence Ministry and to the Basij, a volunteer paramilitary force, which will also be able to revoke registration."This bill will set back civil society in Iran and represents yet another nail in the coffin of the right to freedom to association in the country," said Hassiba Hadj Sahraoui, Amnesty International’s Deputy Director of its Middle East and North Africa Programme.Key parts of the bill have already been passed in the Iranian parliament. Further details of the draft law are to be considered by parliamentarians shortly.Should the bill be passed, the Supreme Committee Supervising NGO Activities would make key decisions on the operations of all NGOS in the country.The new body will have ultimate authority over the boards of directors of NGOs as well as controlling funding for the organizations. Contact with international organizations will also be outlawed without prior authorisation from the committee."The bill effectively sounds the death knell for civil society in Iran, which has been under considerable pressure from the authorities since the election of President Ahmadinejad in 2005," Hassiba Hadj Sahraoui added.“It’s deeply regrettable that while the international community has recently recognized the importance of freedom of association by creating a Special Rapporteur on freedom of association, the Iranian authorities are doing their utmost to limit the exercise of this basic right."A wide range of civil society organizations in Iran are opposed to the Bill and have called on parliamentarians not to pass it in its current form.