UN experts suggest ways to avoid human rights violations during public protests

In November 2015, refugees and migrants protest border restrictions near the Greek town of Idomeni, close to the border with the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia. Photo: UNICEF/Ashley Gilbertson VII

9 March 2016 – A new report presented today to the United Nations Human Rights Council offers recommendations on proper preparations and precautions to protect the rights of the demonstrators, bystanders and police during public gatherings.

The report is the first presented jointly by 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 proper management of assemblies can in many cases serve to prevent an escalation of the situation and the eventual outbreak of violence,” the UN experts said in a press release based on their presentation in Geneva.

During the briefing, they discussed a wide range of rights impacted, and emphasized the State’s obligation not only to protect, but also facilitate, the exercise of these rights.

Their recommendations include State obligation to facilitate assemblies, notification procedures and permission limitations of the rights to freedom of peaceful assembly, the use of force and surveillance in policing of assemblies, access to information and accountability.

“Assemblies can play a vital role in the protection and fulfilment 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.”

Independent experts or special rapporteurs are appointed by the Geneva-based UN Human Rights Council to examine and report back on a country situation or a specific human rights theme. The positions are honorary and the experts are not UN staff, nor are they paid for their work.


News Tracker: past stories on this issue

Move to repeal state law in Australia curbing peaceful assembly welcomed by UN expert

Related Stories






In-depth Interviews