(Human Rights Council report March 2016, A/HRC/31/66) The ability to assemble and act collectively is vital to democratic, economic, social and personal development, to the expression of ideas and to fostering engaged citizenry. Assemblies can make a positive contribution to the development of democratic systems and, alongside elections, play a fundamental role in public participation, holding governments accountable and expressing the will of the people as part of the democratic processes.
Yet despite the increasingly prominent role that assemblies play in today’s world, there remains a lack of clear understanding of the applicable international human rights law and standards. When can a State require advance notification of an assembly, for example? Can authorities place limits on the time, place or manner that protests are conducted? What are the State’s duties in terms of facilitating assemblies?
In March 2014, the Human Rights Council requested Special Rapporteurs Maina Kiai and Christof Heyns to help answer those questions and more. This report is the result of their work – a compilation of practical recommendations for the proper management of assemblies based on consultations with over 100 experts and more than 50 UN Member States. Written input was also solicited via questionnaires.
“Assemblies are not a novel phenomenon – people taking to the street has played an important role in shaping our world and the development of the human rights system,” said Heyns, who is the Special Rapporteur on extrajudicial, summary or arbitrary executions. “Assemblies present opportunities as well as challenges, depending on how they are managed by everyone involved. These recommendations provide us with an opportunity to ensure the better management of assemblies and thus the protection of the rights of all involved.”
This compilation is aimed at providing guidance on how applicable international human rights standards may be operationalized in domestic law and practice to ensure greater protection of the rights involved. The recommendations are organized around 10 overarching principles, and in each section are preceded by a summary of applicable international standards. Each recommendation has been developed with reference to global experience and lessons learned.
For more on the project’s background, please see our peaceful protest recommendations hub page.
Update, fall 2016: Special Rapporteur Kiai has published a companion publication – the 10 Principles Implementation Checklist – designed to allow civil society organizations to monitor the implementation of the report’s recommendations in their countries. Click here for a link to the checklist.