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UN experts provide a roadmap to avoid human rights violations during protests

GENEVA (9 March 2016) –  Two United Nations human rights experts presented today a new report to the UN Human Rights Council offering extensive recommendations to States and police forces around the world on how best to manage public gatherings.

“The proper management of assemblies can in many cases serve to prevent an escalation of the situation and the eventual outbreak of violence. We believe that proper precautions and preparations can help to protect the rights of all concerned - the demonstrators, bystanders and the police,” said the Special Rapporteur on extrajudicial, summary or arbitrary executions, Christof Heyns, and the Special Rapporteur on the rights to freedom of peaceful assembly and of association, Maina Kiai.

The report is the result of consultations with more than 50 States and 100 experts from civil society, academia, protest groups, national human rights institutions and police forces. “Our many conversations with States and experts confirmed that the ability to meet and act collectively is vital to democratic development and to the expression of ideas,” Mr. Kiai said.

“Human rights are often violated in the context of assemblies, sometimes unintentionally. These recommendations are aimed at providing all involved with a common frame of reference of how this world-wide form of expression should be approached. In many cases the proper management of assemblies can prevent it from escalating out of control,” added Mr. Heyns

The recommendations touch on all aspects of the management of assemblies, including: notification procedures and permissible limitations of the right to freedom of peaceful assembly; the State obligation to facilitate assemblies; the policing of assemblies including the use of force and surveillance; the monitoring and recording of assemblies; access to information; and accountability.

“Assemblies can play a vital role in the protection and fulfillment of human rights,” the experts recalled. “They should not be viewed or treated as a threat, but rather as a means of dialogue in which the State should engage.”

The Special Rapporteurs emphasized the broad range of rights impacted in the context of assemblies, and the State’s obligation not only to protect, but also facilitate, the exercise of these rights. Consequently, the report states, no assembly should be considered ‘unprotected’.

“This is the first time the Council has requested that two mandates jointly compile recommendations on the management of assemblies – which is indicative of the pressing need for guidance on this topic,” Mr. Heyns concluded.
(*) Check the joint report by the Special Rapporteurs (A/HRC/31/66): http://www.ohchr.org/EN/HRBodies/HRC/RegularSessions/Session31/Pages/ListReports.aspx

Mr. Maina Kiai (Kenya) took up his functions as the first Special Rapporteur on the rights to freedom of peaceful assembly and of association in May 2011. He is appointed in his personal capacity as an independent expert by the UN Human Rights Council. Learn more, log on to: http://www.ohchr.org/EN/Issues/AssemblyAssociation/Pages/SRFreedomAssemblyAssociationIndex.aspx

The Special Rapporteur on extrajudicial, summary or arbitrary executions, Mr. Christof Heyns (South Africa), is the director of the Institute for International and Comparative Law in Africa and Professor of Human Rights Law at the University of Pretoria, where he has also directed the Centre for Human Rights, and has engaged in wide-reaching initiatives on human rights in Africa. He has advised a number of international, regional and national entities on human rights issues. Learn more, log on to:  http://www.ohchr.org/EN/Issues/Executions/Pages/SRExecutionsIndex.aspx


The Special Rapporteurs are part of what is known as the Special Procedures of the Human Rights Council. Special Procedures, the largest body of independent experts in the UN Human Rights system, is the general name of the Council’s independent fact-finding and monitoring mechanisms that address either specific country situations or thematic issues in all parts of the world. Special Procedures’ experts work on a voluntary basis; they are not UN staff and do not receive a salary for their work. They are independent from any government or organization and serve in their individual capacity.

For more information and media requests, please contact:

- For the Special Rapporteur on the rights to freedom of peaceful assembly and of association: Mr. Guillaume Pfeifflé (+41 22 917 9384 / gpfeiffle@ohchr.org)

- For the Special Rapporteur on extrajudicial, summary or arbitrary executions: Ms. Brenda Vukovic (+41 22 917 9635 / bvukovic@ohchr.org)

For media inquiries related to other UN independent experts:
Mr. Xabier Celaya – Media Unit (+ 41 22 917 9383 / xcelaya@ohchr.org)  

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