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International human rights experts call for the protection of participants in peaceful protests

GENEVA (17 September 2012) – A group of international human rights experts today urged governments worldwide to protect participants in peaceful protests, focusing specifically on those who use peaceful protests to promote greater respect for human rights. They also called on States to protect those who monitor and report on human rights abuses during protests, including journalists.

“States should take all necessary measures to protect human rights during peaceful protests,” said the Special Rapporteur on human rights defenders of the African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights, Reine Alapini-Gansou; and the United Nations Special Rapporteurs on freedom of peaceful assembly and association, Maina Kiai; on freedom of opinion and expression, Frank La Rue; and on human rights defenders, Margaret Sekaggya.

“Everyone without any discrimination should be free to participate in peaceful protests and no-one should be subjected to threats or acts of violence for addressing human rights issues through peaceful protest,” stressed the group of international independent experts, reiterating their call for protection of human rights defenders and journalists in the context of peaceful protests, made in June in a joint statement* with recommendations to States, rights defenders and other relevant actors on the issue.

The rights experts further emphasized the importance of those who monitor and report on peaceful protests, highlighting the need to protect journalists, bloggers and other media professionals and granting them access to demonstrations.

“States should not impose any undue restrictions on the ability of individuals to freely exchange information and ideas on the Internet to organize, mobilize and report on peaceful protests through various platforms, including social networking websites,” they said.

The Special Rapporteurs’ recommendations were hammered out during a special seminar held in Oslo, Norway, from 6 to 8 June 2012, and aimed at mitigating repression of peaceful protest and providing guidance on how increased protection for human rights defenders can be provided in that context.

“In far too many cases peaceful protesters and human rights defenders have been met with brutal repression,” noted the Norwegian Minister of Foreign Affairs, Jonas Gahr Støre, in his opening statement of the seminar. “This critical situation compels us to search for new ways to protect these brave individuals and the vital role they play.”

(*) Check the Special Rapporteurs’ recommendations: http://www.ohchr.org/EN/NewsEvents/Pages/DisplayNews.aspx?NewsID=12524&LangID=E

For more information log on to:
UN - Freedom of assembly: http://www.ohchr.org/EN/Issues/SRHRDefenders/Pages/SRHRDefendersIndex.aspx
UN - Freedom of expression: http://www.ohchr.org/EN/Issues/FreedomOpinion/Pages/OpinionIndex.aspx
UN - Human rights defenders: http://www.ohchr.org/EN/Issues/SRHRDefenders/Pages/SRHRDefendersIndex.aspx
African Commission - Human rights defenders:
http://www.srhrdafrica.org/mrs-reine-alapini-gansou-0

Declaration on the Right and Responsibility of Individuals, Groups and Organs of Society to Promote and Protect Universally Recognized Human Rights:
http://www2.ohchr.org/english/law/freedom.htm

For further information and media requests, please contact Kim Smeby (+41 22 917 9172 / ksmeby@ohchr.org)

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