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General comment No. 37 on article 21: the right of peaceful assembly

Issued by



Issued by Treaty bodies


Civil and political rights

Symbol Number


Topic The right of peaceful assembly
Date adopted 24 July 2020
General discussion 20 March 2019

On the occasion of its 125th session in Geneva from 4 to 29 March 2019, the Human Rights Committee held a half day of general discussion in preparation for a general comment on Article 21 (Right of Peaceful Assembly) of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights. Submissions provided for the purposes of that discussion can be found below.

The purpose of the general discussion was to commence the Committee’s process of developing a general comment on article 21, in light of the Committee’s experience obtained in the review of State reports and communications on this right. The aim of the general comment was to provide appropriate and authoritative guidance to States parties and other actors on the measures to be adopted to ensure full compliance with the rights protected under this provision.


The fundamental human right of peaceful assembly enables individuals to express themselves collectively and to participate in shaping their societies. Peaceful assemblies can play a critical role in allowing participants to advance ideas and aspirational goals in the public domain and to establish the extent of support for or opposition to those ideas and goals. Where they are used to air grievances, peaceful assemblies may create opportunities for the inclusive, participatory and peaceful resolution of differences.

The first sentence of article 21 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights provides that: “The right of peaceful assembly shall be recognized.” The right is articulated in similar terms in other international and regional instruments, and its content has been elaborated upon by monitoring bodies, for example in their views, concluding observations, resolutions, interpretive guidelines and judicial decisions. In addition to being

bound by international law to recognize the right of peaceful assembly, the vast majority of States also recognize the right in their national constitutions.

Article 21 of the Covenant protects peaceful assemblies wherever they take place: outdoors, indoors and online; in public and private spaces; or a combination thereof. Such assemblies may take many forms, including demonstrations, protests, meetings, processions, rallies, sit-ins, candlelit vigils and flash mobs. They are protected under article 21 whether they are stationary, such as pickets, or mobile, such as processions or marches.

In many cases, peaceful assemblies do not pursue controversial goals and cause little or no disruption. The aim might indeed be, for example, to commemorate a national day or celebrate the outcome of a sporting event. However, peaceful assemblies can sometimes be used to pursue contentious ideas or goals. Their scale or nature can cause disruption, for example of vehicular or pedestrian movement or economic activity.

These consequences, whether intended or unintended, do not call into question the protection such assemblies enjoy. To the extent that an event may create such disruptions or risks, these must be managed within the framework of the Covenant.

The general comment also covers the following topics:

II. Scope of the right of peaceful assembly;

III. Obligation of States parties regarding the right of peaceful assembly;

IV. Restrictions on the right of peaceful assembly;

V. Notification regimes;

VI. Duties and powers of law enforcement agencies;

VII. Assembly during states of emergency and armed conflict; and

VIII. Relationship between article 21 and other provisions of the Covenant and other legal regimes.

Inputs Received
Inputs Received
Comments in response to the draft general comment
UN organizations, specialized agencies, and experts
Academia and other professionals
National Human Rights Institutions (NHRIs) and other national institutions
NGOs/Civil Society stakeholders
Written contributions to the half-day of general discussion
  1. Privacy International
  2. The Equal Education Law Centre (EELC)
  3. Robert F. Kennedy Human Rights
  4. Espacio Público (in English and Spanish)
  5. The City of Amsterdam
  6. Open Society Justice Initiative and Committee on the Administration of Justice
  7. Netherlands Helsinki Committee
  8. Clément Nyaletsossi Voule, UN Special Rapporteur on the rights to freedom of peaceful assembly and of association
  9. Demacratic Party (Hong Kong SR)
  10. Demosisto
  11. Center for Human Rights
  12. World Movement for Democracy
  13. Hong Kong UPR Coalition
  14. Hong Kong NGOs
  15. International Institute for Nonviolent Action (NOVACT)
  16. International Center for Not-For-Profit Law (ICNL) and European Center for Not-For-Profit Law (ECNL)
  17. The Platform
  18. The Carter Center
  19. DanChurchAid
  20. Green Peace International
  21. Human Rights House Foundation
  22. Human Rights Center "Memorial" and OVD-Info
  23. International Network of Civil Liberties Organizations (INCLO)
  24. Neil Jarman
  25. CRDH-Université Panthéon- Assas Paris II
  26. Trade Unions
  27. Chut Shel Chessed
  28. Consortium for Street Children
  29. Comisión de Derechos Humanos del Distrito Federal (CDHDF)
  30. International Observers Network
  31. Sexual Rights Initiative (SRI)
  32. ARTICLE 19, México and Centroamérica
  33. International Sevice for Human Rights (ISHR)
  34. Amnesty International
  35. OHCHR – Civic Space Unit and Rule of Law Democracy Unit
  36. ARTICLE 19
  37. MENA Rights Group
  38. Commission on Human Rights of the Philippines
  39. Michael Hamilton
  41. Natallia Satsunkevich
  42. OSCE Office for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights (ODIHR)
  43. Centro de Estudios Legales y Sociales (CELS)