Saturday, November 27, 2010

Demo bill in Kurdistan upsets opposition and NGOs

Demo bill in Kurdistan upsets opposition and NGOs

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Erbil, Nov. 9 (AKnews) – Lawmakers in Kurdistan Region are polarized over a draft law requiring beforehand permission for demonstrations from the authorities passed recently by the parliament.
Under the bill passed on Nov. 3 by a majority vote, any demonstration in Kurdistan Region has to be authorized by the ministry of the interior before demonstrators take to the streets. officials say the law is to regulate the demonstrations and that the security forces provide security for the demonstrators.

However, the opposition factions and the civil society organizations are upset about the bill and consider it restrictions on the right of citizens to demonstrate and raise their voices. They called on the president Massoud Barzani to not sign on the bill and return it to parliament for amendments.

"We thought that the bill would be passed to expand the freedoms of the people in Kurdistan" said Sargul Qaradaghi, an MP in the Gorran faction in the parliament of Kurdistan region, "it is regrettable that it was passed by a majority vote despite expressing our concerns about some articles of the draft law"

The Opposition, which includes the Gorran movement, the Kurdistan Islamic Union (KIU), and the Islamic Group (IG) considered the bill as "restricting the freedom of demonstrating". They were particularly concerned about an article which requires beforehand permission from the authorities for any demonstration. The law also does not allow unexpected demonstrations.

The demonstrations bill has been submitted to the president of the Kurdistan Region Massoud Barzani. Upon Barzani's singing, the bill will be put into effect.

According to the amended Law No. 1 of 2005, the president has to sign or reject the law in 15 days. If the period expired and the president did not reject the bill, it will automatically be effective.

"Demonstration is a right of the citizens and can not be restricted by laws. The demonstrators only need to inform the relevant authorities so that they can provide security and safety for them not permissions" said the Gorran member.

The majorities of the demonstrations in Kurdistan Region have been unexpected in response to certain decisions by the government that some people have found "unfair" and did not have time to inform the relevant authorities, which had to be addressed separately in the bill, according to him.

Another Gorran lawmaker, Zana Raof, said requiring people to have permission to demonstrate will alter the law from a constitutional guarantee of the citizens rights to a "weapon in the hands of ministry of the interior" and which might be used for personal purposes and preventing demonstrators.

"Also, not fitting the unexpected demonstrations in the law will crate a big problem for the internal security forces, as people usually take to the streets all of a sudden," he said, "what was passed contains dangerous implications and restricts the constitutional rights of people"

"There are demonstrations for certain issues which require immediate solutions and can not wait for two days to first inform the authorities and then the authority in turn, reply in another two days" said Omar Abdul Aziz, head of the KIU action in the Kurdish parliament.

The differences on the bill have driven a wedge even between the lawmakers of the Kurdistani Alliance which includes the two ruling parties in the region: the Kurdistan Democratic Party (KDP) and the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan (PUK).

Some of them believe that the law restricts freedoms while others argue that the law is suitable for Kurdistan Region in the current unstable stage of Iraq and could be reformed later.

"The law contains many flaws," said Rafiq Sabir of the Kurdistani Alliance, "because freedom of demonstration is restricted when permission is required. In some articles, it is against the law number 17 of 1993 which stipulates that only informing the authorities is required for a demonstration… the bill does not comply with the developing democracy in Kurdistan"

Those who argue that the bill is necessary cite security as the main reason to support the bill. "Kurdistan is part of Iraq, it can not be viewed as different" says Aso Karim, another member of the Kurdistan Alliance, "whenever the terrorism is curtailed in Iraq and Kurdistan, then the law can be amended"

Some observers have dubbed Kurdistan Region "the Other Iraq" its security and stability.

Though demonstration needs permission from the authorities in advance, but this does not mean they will be able to reject a request for one without good reason, according to Karim.

Recently, hundreds of students took to the streets without prior notice to the authorities after they had applied to the universities of Kurdistan Region but were not admitted.

Shorish Mohammed Amin, head of the NGO Federation in Kurdistan which includes 15 organizations, said the law was more "to block demos than organize them… as if the demonstrators were the enemies of the government and the country,"

He said they will continue a campaign they have started to collect signatures against the bill and will urge the president Massoud Barzani to return the draft back to the parliament for reforms.

"Passing the law will harm the democracy in Kurdistan and is reminiscent of the Baath regime days when demonstrations were not allowed"

Reported by Dler Abdulrahman
Editted by Raber Y. Aziz

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