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12/14/2020 Iran (International Christian Concern) – Iran’s parliament has made a number of amendments to a draft bill which would further criminalize freedom of expression and belief, warns Article 19. This draft bill was passed in May 2020 but sent back to parliament that June by the Guardian Council, who listed a number of objections. These latest amendments were made in response to those objections.

Article 19 writes, “Under international human rights law, any restrictions on freedom of expression must meet the requirements of the three-part test of legality, legitimate aim and necessity and proportionality. The draft Bill meets none of these conditions.”

“The Bill is in breach of the principle of legality, which requires all legislation to meet certain standards of clarity and precision in order to enable individuals to foresee the consequences of their conduct. Restrictions imposed through the draft Bill are set out in extremely vague and broad terms. For example, it is not clear what the meaning of ‘insult’ is or what one has to do to ‘insult’ or to cause ‘discord’ or ‘tensions’. Such vaguely-worded provisions grant extensive interpretive discretion to the prosecutorial and judicial authorities providing a fertile ground for arbitrary arrest and detention.”

Iran’s religious minorities, including Christians, already regularly face criminal charges of this nature. It is expected that if this draft bill moves forward, it will further facilitate their persecution and the degradation of religious freedom.

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