Islamic Republic of Iran: Computer Crimes Law
11 Jan 2012
This content is available in: , Farsi
The Computer Crimes Law of the Islamic Republic of Iran flagrantly violates international human rights law and is an affront to freedom of expression principles. Extensive legal reform, including the repeal of the Computer Crimes Law, is urgently required to protect the right to freedom of expression in Iran.
ARTICLE 19 notes with concern that the Computer Crimes Law is only the latest addition to the Islamic Republic of Iran’s vast censorship apparatus. It demonstrates the resolve of the Iranian Government to pursue human rights defenders, bloggers and journalists through electronic media: the last available sanctuary for freedom of expression and political dissent in the country.
The Computer Crimes Law is saturated with provisions that criminalise legitimate expression. Crimes against “public morality and chastity” and the “dissemination of lies” are engineered to ensnare all forms of legitimate expression. These include broad criminal defamation and obscenity provisions that are antithetical to the right to freedom of expression. Essential elements of offenses are described with ambiguity and in vague and overbroad terms. No defences are available to individuals acting in the public interest. Unfettered discretion is conferred on the Government to pursue its own prerogatives above the interests of the public and the imperatives of international human rights law.
The Computer Crimes Law mandates severe sentences that penalise legitimate expression and offend the proportionality principal that is fundamental to human rights protection. ARTICLE 19 is particularly appalled at the availability of the death penalty for crimes committed against public morality and chastity. Other sanctions on legitimate expression include lengthy custodial sentences, draconian fines, and judicial orders to close organisations and ban individuals from using electronic communications. These penalties also apply to Internet Service Providers that fail to enforce content-based restrictions, incentivising the private sector to promulgate Iran’s censorship culture.
ARTICLE 19 believes that restoring the right to freedom of expression in Iran requires wholesale reform to redress the conceptual failure signified by the Computer Crimes Law. Protection and promotion of freedom of expression must be reasserted as norms and limitations on free expression as the exception.
- The Iranian Government must repeal the Computer Crimes Law in its entirety.
- Comprehensive legal reform must include amending the Iranian Constitution to safeguard freedom of expression and the repeal of provisions of the 1986 Press Law and Islamic Penal Code that restrict the legitimate exercise of this right.
- Iran must immediately abolish the death penalty and decline to impose custodial sentences for expression-related offenses, except of those permitted by international legal standards and with adequate safeguards against abuse.
- Iran must repeal any law that imposes liability on Internet Service Providers for the content of expression that passes through their systems.
- Iran must immediately release all who are imprisoned, detained and prosecuted for the legitimate exercise of their right to freedom of expression.
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