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Emergency security laws announced

Flanked by military leaders, Iraq's new ministers of justice and human rights announced emergency security laws on Wednesday that they said were necessary to restore safety to the country. An unspecified curfew period, transport controls, restrictions on the assets of suspected terrorists and on licences for weapons are necessary to create peace in the country, Human Rights Minister Baktiar Amin told a press conference in the capital, Baghdad. Emergency measures approved by Iraq's new interim government will still respect the rights of citizens, Amin said. "When there is a terrorist threat, when there are killers, kidnappers and saboteurs - this law is to impose security," Amin told IRIN at the press conference. "Safety comes first," he added. However, the measures can only be applied temporarily and in specific parts of the country, according to international media reports. Nevertheless, imposing any emergency measures could lead to human rights violations, said Hamza al-Kasi, an administrator at the Human Rights Organisation of Iraq. Human rights groups do not approve of such rules, although Iraq's severe security situation might call for an exception, al-Kasi explained. "We call on the interim government to be careful in applying martial law," al-Kasi told IRIN. "One of its goals can be to restrain the liberty of the media and the freedom of the people. We will point out violations of human rights caused by excesses of the law." Speaking passionately in favour of the Order of Safeguarding National Security, as the English version of the measures is called, Amin explained such an order was allowed under the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. He gave examples of times when countries such as the United States and France had used such emergency powers, comparing the measures to the US Patriot Act. "They [critics] must read it and study it," Amin said of the order. "It is not against human rights. It does not go against democracy." Meanwhile, at least five explosions on Wednesday morning were rumoured to be aimed at the office of new Prime Minister Iyad Allawi. No one was in Allawi's office at the time. Hours later, explosions believed to be mortar fire could be heard about a mile from the site of the ministers' announcement. News agencies reported that at least four people were killed in battles near Martyrs' Square in Baghdad. Soon after, rocket-propelled grenades were fired at Apache helicopters flying over the nearby Tigris River, a US soldier guarding a nearby checkpoint said on condition of anonymity. The ministers announced the two-month state of emergency in an address carried live by local TV stations, made from inside the heavily fortified former Republican Guard palace area known as the "green zone". The measures can be renewed in one-month increments after the initial period is over, according to the order. Legally, such restrictions are allowed under provisions of the Transitional Administrative Law Annex, according to the order. The Transitional Administrative Law was created by US administrators in November at the same time as the first post-invasion government, the Governing Council, was named.

This article was produced by IRIN News while it was part of the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs. Please send queries on copyright or liability to the UN. For more information: https://shop.un.org/rights-permissions

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