The battle over civil liberties has erupted again, after a draft law written under the government of former Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki on freedom of expression, assembly and peaceful protest was returned to parliament in October.
This draft law was presented to the previous parliament in October 2012, but it did not see the light of day because civil rights organizations in Iraq — including human rights organizations, the Journalistic Freedoms Observatory (JFO) and the Iraqi Association for the Defense of Culture — resisted the law and succeed in obstructing it and preventing its ratification.
Human Rights Watch (HRW) also expressed its opposition to the draft at the time. In an article published on its website, the organization called on the Iraqi government to “revise its draft law on freedom of expression and assembly to remove provisions that restrict those freedoms.”
“The draft law would allow authorities to curtail rights to protect the ‘public interest’ or for the ‘general order or public morals,’ without limiting or defining what those terms encompass,” the article noted.
It was expected that the draft law would be amended before it was resubmitted to the new parliament, but it was presented to parliament in October in the same form, without the slightest amendment. This sparked the concern of many Iraqis and ignited the battle anew. Human and civil rights organizations in Iraq expressed their concern regarding the insistence on resubmitting the draft law to parliament without amending it.
The topic was widely covered in the media, and civil society organizations and some universities, such as Nahrain University in Baghdad, held seminars to examine the draft and show its flaws. Iraqi intellectuals began to rally against the draft law in its current form.