A new cybercrimes law that would impose heavy prison sentences and hefty fines against peaceful critics who express themselves online would be a devastating setback for freedom of expression in Iraq, Amnesty International said today.
The organization has highlighted its serious concern over the draft “Law on Information Technology Crimes” in an open letter signed by nine other NGOs. The letter was submitted to the Iraqi authorities this morning and warns that the proposed law would “establish a climate of self-censorship in the country.”
“If passed, this draconian cybercrime law will be a devastating blow for freedom of expression in Iraq. The vague and overly broad wording of the law means it could easily become a tool for repression in a country where the space for critical voices is already severely restricted,” said Razaw Salihy, Iraq researcher at Amnesty International.
The proposed law would criminalize acts that fall under freedom of expression and give Iraqi authorities excessive powers to impose harsh sentences, including life imprisonment, for vaguely worded offences such as undermining the country’s “independence, peace and political, military security and economic interests”.
During protests in southern Iraq and Baghdad in September 2018 to demand access to jobs, basic services and medical care the Iraqi security forces shot, beat and detained protesters. Iraqi authorities severely restricted access to the internet, including social media sites. Peaceful protesters who were fired on by security forces, believe the authorities deliberately disabled internet access as they were unable to share images and videos depicting the abuses.