18 April 2011
I write as the Secretary General of CIVICUS: World Alliance for Citizen Participation, an international alliance of civil society with members in over one hundred countries.
CIVICUS is pleased to hear that the Iranian Parliament has voted to suspend the review of the Establishment and Supervision of NGOs Bill for three months and referred it to the Social Commission of the Iranian Parliament for further deliberation. We welcome this action and implore members of Parliament and the government to use this interim period to reflect on provisions in the Bill that will guarantee the freedoms of expression, association and assembly as enshrined in the Iranian Constitution and in line with the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights to which Iran is a party.
We remain concerned that despite strong reservations from Iranian civil society, sections (including Article 6 and parts of Article 12) of the proposed Bill which have already been implemented will not be subject to this review. Article 6 of the Bill, for instance, authorises the creation of a Supreme Committee which will be composed of representatives from the security and other sectors including the judiciary, Ministry of Intelligence and the Basij resistance forces with powers to approve or reject the registration permits for NGOs. The Supreme Committee has also been empowered to have control over the choice, activities and decisions of the Board of Directors of NGOs and can decide to monitor the activities of NGOs and close their operations. We note with deep anxiety that the NGO community will have only one representative on the Supreme Committee.
Sections of Article 12 of the draft Bill mandate that all forms of demonstrations must be devoid of political affiliations and will only be considered legal following the approval of the Supreme Committee. If ratified, the law will empower the Supreme Committee to approve any relations or forms of cooperation including participation at conferences, seminars, signing of agreements and contracts between Iranian civil society organisations and international NGOs.
We believe that by attempting to ensure that the activities of NGOs are placed under the control of the security apparatus the Bill in its current form will pose a major threat to independent civil society in Iran. If not thoroughly reviewed, Article 6 in particular will provide military and strategic oversight and control over the activities of civil society organisations and practically restricts NGOs from interactions with international organisations including United Nations agencies.
Your Excellency, laws pertaining to civil society should be enabling of their activities and provide a conducive environment for them to operate. We request that the Establishment and Supervision of NGOs Bill be reviewed to reflect this.
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