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Human Rights Committee continues the first reading of its draft General Comment on the right of peaceful assembly

Human Rights Committee

 4 November 2019

The Human Rights Committee this afternoon continued the first reading of its draft General Comment No.  37 on article 21 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights on the right of peaceful assembly. 

The Committee adopted paragraphs from part six of the draft General Comment concerning duties and powers of law enforcement agencies.

Christof Heyns, Committee Rapporteur for draft General Comment N°37, proposed that part five of the draft General Comment be titled: notification or authorisation regime.  He also provided several clarifications concerning paragraph 77 on the notification of the authorities, which the Committee had adopted on 30 October.  The Rapporteur introduced revisions to paragraph 80, which states that authorization regimes should not be imposed and that notification regimes must not, in practice, become authorization systems; paragraph 82 on communication and dialogue between the authorities and participants in an assembly; and paragraph 86, which states that domestic legislation must detail conditions for the permissible use of force.

The Committee adopted the Rapporteur’s proposals.

The Committee also adopted, with revisions, paragraph 90, which states that powers of “stop and search” or “stop and frisk” might not be applied to participants in assemblies in a discriminatory manner; paragraph 91, which declares that containment, sometimes referred to as “kettling”, might be used only where necessary and proportionate in order to prevent violence during an assembly; paragraph 93, which defines that where a decision was lawfully taken to disperse an assembly, only the minimum force necessary should be used; and paragraph 94, which stresses that firearms were not an appropriate tactical tool for the policing of assemblies and that it was never acceptable to fire indiscriminately into a crowd. 

During the reading, the Committee discussed, and subsequently adopted, paragraph 95 on the responsibility of the State for the actions and omissions of its law enforcement agencies, as revised; paragraph 96 on a duty to investigate effectively, impartially and in a timely manner any allegation of unlawful use of force by law enforcement officials during or in connection with assemblies; and paragraph 97 that states that all use of force by law enforcement officials should be reported by them in a transparent manner and that, where injury occurred, a report should contain sufficient information to establish whether the use of force had been necessary and proportionate.

Paragraph 98 declares that the deployment of undercover officers must be reasonably necessary and that such officers (or other State agents) should never incite violence on the part of other participants, for example, by acting as agents provocateurs.  Paragraph 99 defines the responsibility of the State for the actions of private security service providers used for law enforcement tasks during an assembly.

The Experts asked the Rapporteur to revise paragraph 89 which states that preventive detention of targeted individuals should be used only in exceptional cases, especially with regard to the use of the term “preventive detention” versus “administrative detention”, and paragraph 92 that states that an ongoing assembly that was no longer peaceful might be dispersed, provided the rules on the use of force were strictly followed. 

The drafting of the General Comment started on 20 March 2019 with a half day of general discussion.  The Committee discussed, in the first reading, the draft General Comment No.  37 on 11 July, 16 July, 18 October, 22 October, 25 October, 29 October and 30 October

All documents relating to the Committee’s work, including reports submitted by States parties, can be found on the session’s webpage.  Public meetings of the Human Rights Committee are webcast live at http://webtv.un.org/, while the meeting summaries in English and French can be accessed at the United Nations Office at Geneva’s News and Media page.

The Committee will resume at 10 a.m.  on Thursday, 7 November to continue the first reading of the draft General Comment No.  37 on article 21 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights on the right of peaceful


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