ARTICLE 19 and 14 other international human rights and freedom of expression organisations wrote urgently to the UN Special Rapporteur on the rights to freedom of peaceful assembly and of association on 26 June, urging him to to take all necessary actions to address violations against the right to peacefully assemble in Lebanon, Tunisia, Egypt, and Saudi Arabia, and to work to ensure these countries respect and protect this fundamental human right.
The letter highlights multiple instances of human rights violations, such as the overly aggressive tactics employed by security forces, restrictions imposed on freedom of expression and assembly through stringent laws, and wrongful detention of protesters and human rights activists.
It outlines the situation in Lebanon, where state authorities have deployed severe force to quell peaceful protests. Tunisia’s situation is equally concerning, with arrests and detentions of protesters and journalists lacking due process. In Egypt, peaceful demonstrations are frequently disrupted, often leading to the inhumane treatment of detainees. In Saudi Arabia, peaceful protests are outrightly criminalised, and human rights advocates face unjust imprisonments.
ARTICLE 19 strongly urges the Special Rapporteur to carry out comprehensive investigations into these troubling circumstances, publicly express concern over these infringements of global standards, and work in close cooperation with national authorities to put in place effective protective measures. It is of paramount importance that national laws and practices align with international standards defending the right to peaceful assembly. We emphasise the need for immediate action to preserve this fundamental human right and demand accountability for those disregarding it.
Read the full letter below.
His Excellency, Mr. Clément Nyaletsossi Voule
Special Rapporteur on the rights to freedom of peaceful assembly and of association
c/o Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights
Palais des Nations
CH-1211 Geneva 10
Re: Violations of the Right to Freedom of Peaceful Assembly in Lebanon, Tunisia, Egypt, and Saudi Arabia
We, the undersigned organisations, are writing to bring to your attention the grave violations against the right to freedom of peaceful assembly in Lebanon, Tunisia, Egypt, and Saudi Arabia. As concerned organisations and advocates for human rights, we urge you to take all necessary actions to address these violations and ensure that these countries respect and protect the fundamental human right to freedom of peaceful assembly.
In Lebanon, security personnel have used excessive force to crack down on protesters during peaceful demonstrations. The recent crackdown on protests in Beirut and Tripoli is a clear example of the government’s failure to respect the right to peaceful assembly. Security forces have used tear gas, rubber bullets, and live ammunition to disperse protesters, resulting in the deaths of several individuals and injuries to many others. Additionally, On 24 June 2022, Interior Minister Bassam al-Mawlawi sent an urgent letter to the directorates of the Internal Security and General Security instructing them to ban any gatherings aimed at ‘promoting sexual perversion’.
In Tunisia, authorities have also resorted to violence and repression to silence peaceful assembly. Security forces have used tear gas and rubber bullets to disperse demonstrations and have arrested and detained protesters, including many minors, without due process. They also harassed journalists to force them to hand over footage. Moreover, the government has announced a new law that would severely restrict the right to peaceful assembly and expression.
Similarly, in Egypt, the government has repeatedly cracked down on peaceful demonstrations and assemblies, often resulting in the arrest, detention, and torture of activists and protesters. Authorities have also enacted legislation that severely restricts the right to peaceful assembly and expression, effectively criminalising all forms of protest.
In Saudi Arabia, it is a crime to participate in peaceful demonstrations or assemblies. The Saudi government prohibits any form of peaceful assembly and continues to issue and carry out death sentences against individuals facing charges, including for participation in gatherings and demonstrations that happened years ago.
The public prosecutor demanded the execution of human rights defender Israa Al-Ghomgham on a range of charges, including participation in demonstrations, although this was later retracted. Al-Ghomgham was jailed in 2015 and remains in prison.
Also, despite establishing an associations and civil institutions system, authorities still refuse to license any human rights organisations, including women rights organisations, and it continues to arrest and prosecute the majority of human rights defenders who sought to establish associations.
These violations of the right to freedom of peaceful assembly are unacceptable and must be addressed immediately. As the Special Rapporteur, we ask that you monitor these developments and call for full accountability for human rights violations related to protests, including by conducting thorough, independent, and transparent investigations into violations and providing victims with access to an effective remedy and redress in Lebanon, Tunisia, Egypt, and Saudi Arabia. We call on you to publicly condemn these violations and to work with governments to develop measures that safeguard the right to peaceful assembly and to respect and protect this fundamental human right.
We trust you will take prompt and effective action to address these serious violations. Thank you for your attention to this matter.
ABAAD Resources Centre for Gender Equality
Alternative Press Syndicate (Nakaba Badila, Lebanon)
Committee for Justice
Egyptian Front for Human Rights (EFHR)
Euro-Med Human Rights Monitor
European Saudi Organization for Human Rights
HuMENA for Human Rights and Civic Engagement Innovation for Change- MENA Hub
Lebanese Center for Human Rights
Media Association for Peace (MAP)
MENA Rights Group
The Freedom Initiative