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Freedom of Peaceful Assembly and Association - Individual Complaints

The Special Rapporteur is mandated to promote and protect the rights to freedom of peaceful assembly and of association. To that end the Human Rights Council has requested the Special Rapporteur to seek credible and reliable information from governments, non-governmental organizations and any other parties who have knowledge of pertinent situations and cases. Once such information is received, the Special Rapporteur send urgent appeals and allegation letters (called 'communications') to the concerned authorities for clarification on the allegations raised. All communications sent, and replies received from Governments (if any), are confidential and remain so until the publication of the joint communications report to the Human Rights Council three times per year.

It should be stressed that the dialogue established with Governments by the Special Rapporteur and the transmission of allegations concerning their countries in no way implies any kind of accusation or value judgment on the part of the Special Rapporteur, but rather a request for clarification with a view to trying to ensure, along with the Government concerned, the protection of the rights to freedom of peaceful assembly and of association.

Urgent appeals

The Special Rapporteur will act upon receiving credible information on concrete incidents and individual cases related to the infringement of the rights to freedom of peaceful assembly and of association. Upon receipt of prima facie credible and reliable information, the Special Rapporteur transmits the information to the Government concerned and requests it to provide him with comments and observations.

Allegation letters

For those communications that do not require urgent action, but relate to violations that already occurred and/or to general patterns of violations - including in relation to the legal framework and its application as regards the rights to freedom of peaceful assembly and of association - the Special Rapporteur may send allegation letters requiring Governments to clarify the substance of the allegations received.

How much time does the process take?

The Special Rapporteur tries, with the support of the staff of the OHCHR, to react as quickly as possible to allegations, with special attention given to the most serious and urgent cases. In many instances a case is taken up by the Special Rapporteur with the concerned Government within a few hours of the information being received from the source. In instances, where insufficient information is available in the initial contact it can take several days to gather and clarify sufficient information for contact to be made with a Government.

What happens next?

Ideally, the Government will react immediately to the Special Rapporteur’s letter and investigate the alleged facts, taking action to prevent or end any violation. Governments are urged, under the Human Rights Council resolution establishing the Special Rapporteur’s mandate, to respond to the letters sent. In many instances, responses are not received or are received several months later.

If the Special Rapporteur does not receive a rapid response from a Government, particularly with regard to an urgent and very serious case, then additional efforts are made to follow-up with the Government concerned, via contact with its representation at the United Nations in Geneva. Resource limitations make it impossible for the Special Rapporteur to follow-up on every case.


The identity of an alleged victim will always be included in any contact between the Special Rapporteur and State authorities. The Special Rapporteur cannot intervene without revealing the victim’s identity. If the victim is a minor (below 18 years of age), the Special Rapporteur will include his or her identity in contact with the State, but will not include it in any subsequent public report. Similarly, if there are grounds to believe that revealing the identity of the victim in a public report might put the victim at further risk, they will not be included in any public report. The source of the information provided or the victim may also request that the victim’s name not be included in public reports. The name of the victim will be made public in the joint communications report of special procedures mandate holders, issued three times per year (March, June and September), unless the victim requests not to have his/her identity revealed in the said report.

The identity of the source of information on the alleged violation is always kept confidential, unless the source agrees that it may be revealed. When submitting information you may indicate whether there are any other details which you would like to remain confidential.

Contact details for sending submissions and for further correspondence

E-mail contact details: urgent-action@ohchr.org or freeassembly@ohchr.org. The text of the e-mail should refer to the mandate on freedom of peaceful assembly and association.

Fax: +41 22 917 9006 (Geneva, Switzerland)

Telephone: +41 22 917 1234. This is the number for the United Nations telephone operator in Geneva, Switzerland. Callers should ask to speak with staff at the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights dealing with the special procedures of the Human Rights, and specifically with staff supporting the mandate of the Special Rapporteur on the rights to freedom of peaceful assembly and of association.

The Special Rapporteur’s staff will acknowledge the receipt of a submission if this is requested. They can be contacted at any time for further discussion. 

Guidelines for submitting allegations of violations of the rights to freedom of peaceful assembly and/or association to the Special Rapporteur

Before sending a complaint, ensure that all the details listed in points 1 to 6 of column A (Essential information) are included in your submission. In cases of extreme urgency, it may be possible to submit a case without some of these details, but their absence makes examining the matter more difficult.

If you have additional information, it could be helpful. Examples of useful additional information are provided in column B (Useful information). These details are not essential, but can be important in some cases.

Information may be sent in list form (as in column A), or it may be provided in a letter. Column C provides an example of case information, and how it can be included in a letter. Providing the correct kind of details and expressing them clearly make a quick response easier.

With regard to draft or existing legislations which allegedly unduly restrict the rights to freedom of peaceful assembly and/or association, please list the problematic provisions in a clear manner. If possible, please provide a copy of the legislative text in the original language as well as in English, French or Spanish.

In the event of allegations of reprisals against the victim(s) because s/he cooperated with the United Nations, please state it clearly in the complaint.  

Essential information
Useful information
Example of letter to the Special Rapporteur
1. Name of alleged victim/s

Take care to give first and family names and to spell names correctly.

Victims can be individuals, groups or organizations.

If the victim is an individual, please provide information on gender, age, nationality and profession.
If the victim is an individual or an organization, please provide contact details. Contact details are treated as confidential.

Ms. Aabb Ddee, head of the trade union at the XXYY factories, and Messrs Ffgg Hhii and Jjkk Llmm, members of the same trade union. They live in [name of city/town and country].


2. Status of the victim

In what type(s) of activity is the victim (person/s, organization) engaged?

Where relevant, please also indicate the city and country in which the victim (person/s, organization) conducts his/her work.


Ms. Ddee, Mr. Hhii and Mr. Llmm defend the rights of co-workers.

3. Alleged violation(s)/abuse(s) committed against the victim in the exercise of his/rights to freedom of peaceful assembly and/or association

What happened? Where? When? What is the current situation?

Where an initial violation has led to a series of other acts, please describe them in chronological order. For example, if the initial concern is that an activist has been arrested while exercising his or her rights to freedom of peaceful assembly and/or association, details should be provided. But if s/he is subsequently detained, other useful information would include: the place of detention; whether the person has access to a lawyer; the conditions of detention; the charges; etc.

On 1 May 2012, a peaceful demonstration of more than 50 XXYY workers, demanding better conditions of work, took place in front of the XXYY factories. The demonstration was led by Ms. Ddee. Shortly after the start of the demonstration, the police arrived and violently dispersed the peaceful demonstration. Ms. Ddee, Mr. Hhii, and Mr. Llmm were beaten with sticks on their head and back. The police arrested Ms. Ddee, who was later charged with Section 45 of the [name of the country] Criminal Code for “leading an unlawful assembly which caused a breach of peace”. Ms. Ddee is detained in [name and location] prison, where she does not have access to a lawyer. Her trial is scheduled for 10 July 2012.


4. Perpetrators

Give any available information on who allegedly committed the violation (or abuse when the perpetrator is a non-State actor): e.g. men in uniform (what type?); rank, unit or other identification or title.




Were there any witnesses to the alleged violation or abuse?
Were there any other victims?

Ms. Ddee, Mr. Hhii and Mr. Llmm were beaten by police officers from the [name and location] police station. The same officers arrested Ms. Ddee.

5. Action by authorities

Has the matter been reported to the relevant authorities?

What action has been taken?


Action taken by the victim or by human rights organizations

Has the alleged violation/abuse been made public?

Has this information been sent to other human rights groups?


Mr. Hhii and Mr. Llmm did not report the matter to the police in fear of reprisals.

6. Who is submitting this information?


Give name and contact details. Give also professional role, if relevant.

Submissions may be made by organizations or individuals.


This letter is submitted by the non-governmental organization [name of the NGO], whose mandate is to monitor the human rights situation in [country].



Please send any updated information you have as soon as possible. It is especially important to know if there has been any change in the situation of the victim.
Updates might be given where:
-   additional information becomes known (e.g. the identity of the perpetrator of the violation);
-   new events have occurred (e.g. the victim’s release from detention).


Today [date], we learn that the Criminal Court of [name] acquitted Ms. Ddee. However, she is in a very poor health condition due to repeated beatings by security guards during her detention.

In this Section
External links

External website of Special Rapporteur Maina Kiai, including links to social media, videos and newsletters

Project on use of force by law enforcement officials

Disclaimer: These websites, videos and publications are not managed by the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights. Their contents do not reflect the official position of the United Nations