CIVICUS’ Comments on the Iraq draft Law of NGOs, 2009

Linked with CIVICUS – World Alliance for Citizen Participation.

Published on CVICUS (Civil Society Watch CSW), by Mandeep Tiwana, 29 August 2009.

Johannesburg 29 August 2009. The Iraq draft Law of Non Governmental Organizations which is currently under consideration by the country’s Parliament has been the subject of severe criticism by civil society. Enactment of the draft Law in its present form will severely curtail the activities of NGOs providing substantial support to the people of Iraq and assisting in the achievement of Millennium Development Goals.

A number of provisions of the draft Law fail to comply with freedom of association guarantees contained in the Constitution of Iraq, the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, the Convention on the Rights of the Child and the UN Declaration on the Right and Responsibility of Individuals, Groups and Organs of Society to Promote and Protect Universally Recognized Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms (Declaration on Human Rights Defenders).

In the interests of the protecting constitutional freedoms and upholding the obligations of the Government of Iraq to its people under international law, CIVICUS urges that the following areas of concern with regard to the draft Law be addressed:

Registration process based on executive discretion:

In order to register, the founders of an NGO must first undertake the preliminary step of presenting an ‘establishment application’ to the NGOs Department in the Secretariat of the Council of Ministers. The government has complete discretion to refuse the application at this stage without an obligation to provide reason for its denial. Also, there is no provision for filing an appeal against rejection of an establishment application. A formal registration application can only be presented upon approval of the establishment application. Although, the government is obliged to state the reasons for rejection of a registration application and an appeals process is also prescribed in this respect, the international law principle of prescribing well defined grounds to refuse registration has been ignored. Article 22 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR) ratified by Iraq explicitly states that no restrictions may be placed upon the freedom of association “except those which are prescribed by law and are necessary in a democratic society in the interests of national security or public safety, public order (odre public), the protection of public health or morals or the protection of the rights and freedoms of others” … (full text).

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