UN: Advance accountability for protest violations

UN: Advance accountability for protest violations - Civic Space

Security forces surround the vehicle of a member of an opposition political party in Dakar, Senegal. Photo: PressAfrik

ARTICLE 19 commends the Special Rapporteur for his report on advancing accountability for serious human rights violations related to protest.

Through our #FreeToProtest campaign, we too have found that security forces across the globe frequently threaten, arrest, detain, assault, and even kill people who protest together to air their grievances. Too often, this is met with a complete lack of accountability. We urge all States to fully implement the recommendations of the report and end this pervasive culture of impunity.

In Kenya, we are witnessing severe violations of the right to assembly, with the authorities refusing to receive notifications and violently dispersing planned protests, including those linked to economic grievances. Over recent months, it is feared that at least 10 persons have died in protest-related incidents, with a majority being linked to the use of excessive force by police, including live bullets. At the same time, more than 200 people have also been arrested across the country. There have also been at least 25 attacks against journalists and an attempt by the authorities to ban live coverage of protests through threats of disciplinary action against media houses, intended to intimidate and discourage them from playing their vital role in monitoring protests and bringing human rights violations to light.

In Senegal, we are similarly dismayed by ongoing deadly crackdowns on protests across the country following the sentencing of the opposition leader. At least 16 protesters have lost their lives, while a total of 78 have been seriously injured and transferred to medical facilities, some of whom were shot with live bullets. At the same time, the authorities have suspended internet access, including the use of social networks, which is not only a violation of international law but creates mistrust and exacerbates ongoing tensions. The authorities’ regime to authorise protests goes against international standards and is being abused to systematically refuse authorisations for protest, particularly by pro-democracy movements.

In Guinea, we have also seen a pattern of bloody crackdowns on protesters. The military junta has essentially banned protest, with security forces responding to the pro-democracy movement with violence, resulting in several deaths and many injuries.

We urge the authorities in these countries to ensure full accountability for these human rights violations, including by conducting thorough, independent, and transparent investigations and providing victims with access to an effective remedy and redress. We stress that the key to easing the current tensions is through the protection of civic space and human rights, including the rights to freedom of expression and peaceful assembly.

We encourage the Special Rapporteur to continue monitoring these developments and to take action to promote accountability.