In March 2008, the Iraqi Government became a signatory to the United Nations Convention against Corruption (UNCAC). Despite this, Transparency International’s 2013 Corruption Index ranked Iraq as the 7th (with a ranking of 171) most corrupt country out of 177 countries on the index1.
2. Present legal environment
While, the Constitution of Iraq provides generally for the right of free expression—on condition that public order and morality is not violated2—,this right is not usually abided in practice.
a. Public sector
The Civil Service Law of 2008 (with amendments) and the Law Rewarding Informants contain provisions to deal with the protection of whistleblowers.
Theoretically, protection from recrimination is afforded to public servants who report wrongdoing, but, while some protection mechanisms exist, they are disordered and often ineffectual in practice. Public servants who inform frequently face considerable harmful consequences, including losing their jobs, demotion, or harassment in other forms.
A reporting mechanism on the Commission of Integrity3 website provides an avenue for the reporting of financial and administrative corruption. Further, while the Inspector-general (IG) in each ministry exists to provide independent internal oversight4, lack of resources, staff and independence render these mechanisms ineffectual.
A reward system (based on the US qui tam model) for informants is enshrined in Iraqi law5. Applying to state officials and public servants, it rewards individuals inform on administrative and financial corruption, and who provide useful information that leads to the restoration of stolen Iraqi, to the relevant authorities. Under the law allows whistleblowers are awarded up to 30% of all funds recovered.
b. Private sector
The Iraqi private sector lacks any comprehensive system for protecting whistleblowers.
2. Information environment
As previously mentioned, freedom of expression is theoretically protected in Iraqi constitution. Nevertheless, Iraq is considered a hostile environment for journalists despite the existence of media pluralism.
In 2009, Temkin— a group of experts, journalists, and academics in Iraq —drafted the “Information Access Right Draft Law” in an attempt to implement a comprehensive freedom of information framework. To ensure the bill complied with international standards, Article 19 reviewed the draft legislation and made a number of recommendations. Specifically they were concerned that the draft law was lacking important provisions pertaining to criminal and civil responsibility and the system of appeals. A further concern was that no mention is made in the Draft Law of the public interest test — which provides that despite the potential for substantial harm resulting from disclosure, information should still be disclosed if the potential benefits outweigh potential harm6. The draft also failed to deal with the protection of whistleblowers. As of February 2014 this draft law has yet to be enacted.
On 8 June 2013, Kurdistan Region Parliament enacted an access to information law for the Kurdistan Region and President Barzani has since approved it. The Right of Access to Information Law No. 11 of 2013 provides the citizens of the Kurdistan Region with guaranteed right of to access all information held by public authorities without hindrance except for exceptions regulated by law7.The law is considered as relatively progressive and has scored 98 points out of a possible 150 on the RTI Rating, ranking at 28th out of 95 countries on the index. The International Federation of Journalists (IFJ) and the Centre for Law and Democracy (CLD) reviewed the law and made some recommendations regarding its improvement, these included:
“The procedures for processing requests for information are too brief and overview in nature.
Not all exceptions are harm tested and there is no procedure for consulting with third parties.
There are no sanctions for obstruction of access or protection for good faith disclosures pursuant to the law.
The Law fails to create a dedicated oversight body for information appeals (such as an information commission), instead allocating this task to the existing Human Rights Commission in Kurdistan Region.”8
On 9 August 2011, the Journalist Protection Law9 was adopted by the Iraqi Legislature. Article 2 of the legislation asserts that the aim of the law is to ensure the protection of Iraqi journalists within the Republic of Iraq and to guarantee their rights. This law fails to comprehensively address the many pitfalls of earlier drafts, however, it does provide some improvements in safeguards for journalists. Several media organizations and journalists have criticized it as inadequate and Article 19 have said that, in several ways, it falls below international human rights standards on freedom of expression and the right to information10.
In July 2013, the Iraqi Government suspended the enactment of the Information Crimes Law11; a law designed to regulate the use of information network and computers, together with other electronic systems and devices. The proposed legislation did not meet international standards for the protection of due process, freedom of speech, and freedom of association. It also constituted a grave threat to independent media, whistleblowers, and peaceful activists12. Specifically, Draft Law Articles 13(1)(c) and 19(1)(a) in combination with 19(2) failed to provide any legal protections for whistleblowers, which would cause Iraq to be in contravention of the United Nations Convention on Anti-Corruption.
It is not uncommon for journalists reporting incidents of corruption to self-censor as a result of the intimidation they face.
3. Recent cases
No cases of whistleblower harassment are publicly known.
5. Rule of Law
In this case, it is too early to identify specific institutions capable of implementing whistleblower protection, and whether legislation enacted with good intention lives up to its potential.
Last modified: February 4 2014
3 The Commission of Integrity (the anti-corruption agency) is said to be an independent governmental body subjected to the Iraqi Parliament and the law of Iraq. The Commission is chaired by an employee holding minister position, appointed by the Prime Minister.