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Guidelines for submitting complaints to the Special Rapporteur on the rights to freedom of peaceful assembly and of association


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.

Who can submit information?

Any party who has knowledge of a violation to the rights to freedom of peaceful assembly and/or of association. This includes Governments, nongovernmental organizations, individuals, including alleged victims, legal representatives, family members and other United Nations and intergovernmental bodies.

What are peaceful assemblies and associations?

An “assembly” is an intentional and temporary gathering in a private or public space for a specific purpose. It therefore includes demonstrations, inside meetings, strikes, processions, rallies or even sits-in. International human rights law only protects assemblies that are peaceful, i.e. those that are not violent, and participants with peaceful intentions or behaviours. For more information, please see the report of the Special Rapporteur on the rights to freedom of peaceful assembly and of association, A/HRC/20/27, paragraphs 24-25.

An “association” refers to any grous of individuals or any legal entity brought together to collectively act, express, promote, pursue or defend a field of common interests. For more information, see the report of the Special Representative of the Secretary-General on human rights defenders, A/59/401, paragraph 46.

What happens when the information reaches the Special Rapporteur?

  • As information arrives, the Special Rapporteur first seeks to determine if it falls within the mandate.
  • Secondly, every effort is made to verify the information and seek additional details if necessary.
  • Thirdly, the Special Rapporteur reaches out to the Government of the State where the alleged violation is thought to have occurred or to the non-State actor concerned. This is usually done through urgent appeals or allegation letters (called 'communications') addressed to the State’s diplomatic mission in Geneva for transmission to capitals or to the non-State actor concerned. The letters provide details of the victim(s), the alleged events and the human rights concerns.

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 in March, June and September (communication reports are available at the following link:

What is the objective of the Special Rapporteur’s intervention?

The primary objective of these letters is to contribute to promoting and protecting the rights to freedom of peaceful assembly and of association by ensuring that State authorities are informed of allegations as early as possible and that they have an opportunity to investigate them and to end or prevent any human rights violation. With both urgent appeal and other letters, the Special Rapporteur asks the Government to take all appropriate measures to investigate and address the alleged events and to communicate back the results.

The communications of the Special Rapporteur in no way imply an accusation or value judgment. They are a mean to intervene directly with Governments on allegations of violations of the rights to freedom of peaceful assembly and of association to seek clarification in order to promote and protect these rights.

What happens next?

Ideally, the Government or non-State actors investigate the alleged facts and take action to prevent or end any violation. They are urged to respond as soon as possible to urgent appeals and respond to other letters within a period of 60 days.

If the Special Rapporteur received new allegations, he may send a follow-up communication to the State or non-State actor concerned. However, resource limitations make it impossible for the Special Rapporteur to follow-up on every case.

The communications sent by the Special Rapporteur and the replies received are published in full in a report presented to the Human Rights Council. Since September 2011 onwards, this report has been issued three times per year and presented at the Human Rights Council sessions in March, June and September. The reports are available at the OHCHR website.


In cases where individuals are the alleged victims of violations, the Special Rapporteur seeks either their direct consent or the agreement of their families or lawyers if access is restricted. The identity of individuals and organizations that send information to the Special Rapporteur is always kept confidential and is never referred to in the letters to Governments or non-State actors or in public reports.

How to ask for action to the Special Rapporteur?

To facilitate the consideration of alleged violations, the online form/ questionnaire at the link "Online submission to special procedures" can be used. You can also write an email to [email protected], indicating the relevant country and violation(s), along with your name and contact details. Note that there is no need for a formal letter; what is most important is that you summarize in a one-page document (written in English, French or Spanish) the following information:

  • Where? The place(s) where the alleged violation(s) took place, including the country and city
  • When? Day and hour when the alleged violation took place
  • Who is/are the alleged victim(s), indicating gender, first and last name, type of activity the victim(s) is/are undertaking, and whether they explicitly agree to having their identities disclosed to the relevant authorities and in the public report (see confidentiality policy above)
  • Who is/are the perpetrator(s), if known? For example, two men (in uniform?); rank, unit or other identification or title
  • What happened? Brief but detailed description of events that led you to write to the Special Rapporteur
  • What is the current situation? For example, in cases of detention, is the alleged victim still in detention; where is she/he being held; has she/ he had access to a lawyer, a doctor, her/his family; has she/ he seen a judge; have charges been brought against her/him; what are the charges; when is the trial; can she/he appeal the court decision, etc. Time indications of all events are important, if available.
  • What actions have been taken? Has the matter been reported to the relevant authorities?
  • When the alleged violation concerns a draft bill, law or regulation, your email should include, among other things:
  • A electronic copy of the said draft bill, law or regulation, if available
  • Your analysis of the problematic legal provisions, ideally article by article
  • In the case of draft bills, an overview of the process by which they could become laws and where we are in this process today; in the case of laws, if and how they have been implemented

Please remember to keep us timely informed of any relevant update regarding the case!