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Iraq cyber crime law threatens free speech says HRW

Pressure group warns new law could mean life imprisonment for speaking against government

Iraq cyber crime law threatens free speech says HRW
The new Information Crimes Law is not properly defined, contravenes international law and has draconian penalties, says HRW.

Pressure group Human Rights Watch is warning that Iraq's proposed law on cyber crimes violates international law and would seriously curtail journalists, whistleblowers, and peaceful activists.

The draft law, which is due for a second reading by Iraq's Council of Representatives, would allow life imprisonment and a large fine for "intentionally" using computer devices and an information network to undermine the country's "supreme economic, political, military, or security interests," which are not defined.

HRW says that the law would allow Iraqi authorities to harshly punish expression they decide constitutes a threat to governmental, social, or religious interests.

"This bill would give Iraqi authorities yet another tool to suppress dissent, especially on the Internet, which Iraqi journalists and activists increasingly turn to for information and open debate," said Joe Stork, deputy Middle East director at Human Rights Watch. "The Council of Representatives should reject laws that would undermine the freedoms enshrined in Iraq's 2005 constitution."

The law would also allow life imprisonment for involvement with a "hostile entity for the purpose of upsetting security and public order or endangering the country," which HRW says could be used as the basis for prosecuting anyone involved in an organization, movement, or political party that the government deems "hostile" because of the group's criticism of the government or its policies.

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