ARTICLE 19 welcomes the joint report of UN Special Rapporteurs on the proper management of assemblies, and the practical recommendations it outlines. The report was presented to the UN Human Rights Council (HRC) on the 9th March. We call for all States to examine it closely, and to devise National Action Plans aimed at the implementation of the recommendations.
The report is the consequence of HRC resolution 25/38, a landmark commitment to protect human rights in the context of protests. The main sponsors of that resolution, Switzerland, Turkey and Costa Rica, plan a follow-up initiative at the present 31st Session of the HRC. The compilation of the special procedures provides clear principles on the international legal framework that applies to protests, which should be incorporated to any follow-up resolution. It is important that the HRC commits States to not only implement the recommendations, but ensures institutional follow-up so that the performance of States can be measured against the benchmark the report sets.
The recommendations are timely: in recent years, violations of human rights in the context of protests have become a grave concern in all parts of the world: such as Mexico, Brazil, Egypt, Russia, Turkey, in the UK and USA to name a few.
Ahead of protests, administrative and legal barriers frustrate the free exercise of rights. Authorisation requirements grant too much discretion to States, and burdensome notification requirements are also a barrier. This apparatus in some instances serves to deny protesters the possibility of expressing their collective messages within sight and sound of the target of their grievances.
During protests, States too frequently fail to facilitate the exercise of rights, adopting increasingly forceful and interventional responses. The use of force is too frequently used against protesters, with severe violations of rights. Resorting to force demonstrates a failure to properly manage assemblies: it must be an exception and last resort; it must be proportionate and necessary.
ARTICLE 19 welcomes the recognition in the report that the free flow of information around protests is crucial and that information on the management of assemblies by States must be proactively disclosed, and the importance of legal frameworks for this.
The report also focuses on the impact of surveillance during protests, as well as attacks on social communicators, including the media, and observers in protests. It provides substantive guidance to States on how to ensure accountability and redress for these and other violations.
ARTICLE 19 is concerned by increasing violations of the right to freedom of expression online in the context of protests. A free and open Internet is essential to human rights in protest. This issue deserves close attention by the Special Procedures in future.
The report recommends that States develop National Action Plans on the basis of the guidance of the special procedures. ARTICLE 19 looks forward to further engagement with States as they set out in this task.