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Stockholm - Skyline International for Human Rights is concerned that the Iraqi government has again submitted two draft laws to parliament, the adoption of which would restrict freedom of expression and peaceful assembly in the country.

In a press release issued today Thursday, Skyline states that it is seriously considering the submission of the two bills by the government because they contain provisions that violate the right to expression and peaceful assembly.

In this  regard, Skyline indicates that it has been following the information about the resubmission of the draft laws by the government to the House of Representatives, which initiated private discussions for it without submitting the two draft laws to civil society and the Iraqi people in general.

According to the available information on the proposed draft law on freedom of expression and peaceful assembly, it contains many indeterminate terms that can be interpreted by authorities to limit freedoms and gives Iraqi authorities a cover for arbitrary prosecution of individuals who publicly express themselves in violation of ''public morality'' or "general order.''

The bill prohibits "defamation of religions, sects, and religious communities" Those who "publicly insult an ascetic, symbol, or person revered, glorified, or venerated by a religious community" are punishable by up to 10 years in prison and a fine of up to 10,000,000 Iraqi dinars ($7,600).

This provision is an extension of the imposition of restrictions and gives the authorities the power to impose wide-ranging penalties that undermine the right to freedom of expression guaranteed in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, since the restrictions imposed by law may not absolutely interfere with the exercise of that right.

The bill would allow authorities to prohibit public gatherings unless you have obtained a permit from authorities at least five days in advance, with no clear text preventing denial of the permit, and the initial requirement is only to inform authorities of the time and place of the gathering to ensure security at the site, not to obtain a permit.

It is worth noting that the House of Representatives held its second reading of the proposed Freedom of Expression and Peaceful Assembly Act on May 9, 2023, and the Speaker of the House may schedule a public vote on the bill at any time.

Additionally, the proposed draft law on cybercrimes allows for the imposition of a prison sentence in the event that information about harm to the nation's "economic, political, military, or supreme security interests"-a broad, ambiguous term-is published online. The publisher could be given a life sentence and fined up to 50 million Iraqi dinars, which is roughly $38,000.

a life sentence may be imposed on anyone guilty of “inciting sectarian tension or unrest” or “undermining the independence, unity, and security of the country or its economic, political, military, or supreme security interests,” along with a fine of up to 50 dirhams. One million Iraqi dinars (about $38,000).

It should be noted that the government submitted a draft law on cybercrime to parliament back in November 2022.

In order to guarantee the right to freedom of expression, peaceful assembly, publication, and access to information, Skyline urges the Iraqi government to drop its plans to present the two legal drafts, put them up for public discussion, and align their provisions with human rights charters.