Iraq drafts harsh anti-protest law as Baghdad gets Tahrir Square movement

In a July 13 statement, Human Rights Watch called on the Iraqi government to revise a draft law it said would limit freedom of assembly and expression, in contravention both of international standards and Iraq’s own constitution. The bill contains provisions that would curtail the right to protest hold demonstrations that are seen to violate the “public interest” or the “general order or public morals”—without providing any definition of those terms. Those provisions, as well as the proposed criminalization of speech that “insults” a “sacred” symbol or person, clearly violate international law, Human Rights Watch said. “This law will undermine Iraqis’ right to demonstrate and express themselves freely,” the watchdog’s deputy Middle East director, Joe Stork, said. (AFP, HRW, July 13)

The proposed law comes just as opposition groups have launched a campaign of Friday protests in Baghdad’s Tahrir Square to demand the ouster of Prime Minister Nuri Maliki. At least seven protesters were arrested and beaten by Iraqi security forces as hundreds of angry demonstrators gathered last Friday July 8 in the capital’s central square. Protesters chanted: “Friday after Friday until we get rid of al-Maliki,” referring to Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki. (CNN, July 8)

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