Freedom Of Assembly

Freedom of assembly is the citizens’ right to publicly gather together to express, advocate and achieve shared needs. Assembly encompasses the right to express dissent through meetings, demonstrations, protests and strikes. This civil liberty is an essential complement to freedom of association and expression. Assembly is one of the citizens’ tools to engage with governing bodies, other forms of authority and multinational organisations. Indeed, assembly channels and magnifies the democratic will, including that of minority groups and urges interlocutors to take citizens’ perspectives into consideration.

The United Nations Human Rights Council stated that:

“The ability to assemble and act collectively is vital to democratic, economic, social and personal development, to the expression of ideas and to fostering engaged citizenry. Assemblies can make a positive contribution to the development of democratic systems and, alongside elections, play a fundamental role in public participation, holding governments accountable and expressing the will of the people as part of the democratic processes”.

Governing bodies have the duty to provide a safe and empowering environment for people to come together and express their views. This responsibility includes ensuring access to public spaces, supplying protection in favour of and punishing violence against citizens exercising their freedom of assembly.

According to CIVICUS, emerging trends limiting the right to peaceful assembly include policing techniques such as the use of excessive or unlawful violence and undercover tactics, illegal or unreasonable refusal of authorisation to gather peacefully, denial of protection from violent counter-demonstrations.

In recent years, several European governments undertook anti-terror strategies that left legal loopholes failing to protect or even eroding freedom of assembly in the name of security of public places. These measures often led to a transfer of powers from the independent judicial sector to prefects and police authorities, who now have more discretion in regulating assemblies in public spaces.

Read Latest Alerts:

- Article written by Dominika Spyratou from Common Ground. During the first lockdown, from 23 March - 4 May 2020, restrictions on assembly prevented people in Greece from gathering in groups of more than 10 individuals in open spaces. No major incidents took place during the 6 week lockdown period ...
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Statement by CIVICUS, published on 6 March 2021, available here. The use of violence against peaceful protesters in the United Kingdom (UK), who are protesting against the draconian police, crime, sentencing and courts bill, is a major assault on the right to peaceful assembly in the UK and indicative of ...
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Open letter to the members of the Danish Parliament, published on 23 March 2020, also available on CIVICUS here. Members of the Danish Parliament Folketinget Christiansborg 1240 Copenhagen K Tel.: +45 3337 5500 E-mail: folketinget@ft.dk URGENT: Reject discriminatory "Security for all Danes” Act and respect freedom of assembly. Dear Members of the ...
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When Slovenia entered the orange phase of the pandemic, some restrictions were softened. Thus, gatherings, that were previously completely forbidden, are now allowed up to 10 people. However, gatherings are not allowed for public celebrations, public demonstrations and weddings. In other words, even though up to 10 people can gather, ...
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People of Slovenia took to the streets for over 20 consecutive weeks to protest against the right-wing government and its corruption scandals, which have erupted since it took office in March 2020. A group of citizens initiated cyclists’ protests early in March and suddenly, the protest spread across Slovenia. Each ...
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- Original content by ECF in collaboration with Novact. Police in Spain have reacted with violence and arrests in recent protests against police aggression (in Linares, Jaen), and the imprisonment of Pablo Hasel (in Spain’s main cities). In the space of a week, these concerning developments represent a crackdown on the fundamental right to protest and freedom of expression in Spain.  Protesting Police ...
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- Analysis by Amnesty International, published on 8 February, accessible here. France: Authorities silence dissent against controversial global security bill French authorities are using illegal tactics to crush protests and silence critics of the dangerous ‘Global Security Bill’ which will be voted on in the French Senate next month, Amnesty ...
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- Analysis by CIVICUS Monitor's Aarti Narsee, published by Carnegie Europe on 27 January 2021, accessible here The year 2020 tested democracy and civic freedoms in many ways. After the World Health Organization declared the coronavirus outbreak a pandemic in March, governments took unprecedented actions, such as imposing curfews, restricting ...
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- Analysis done by Notes From Poland, published on 10 February 2021, accessible here. The leader of mass protests in Poland against a near-total abortion ban has been charged with crimes that could result in a prison sentence of up to eight years. The woman, who can only be named ...
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- Analysis by ECNL, published on 10/02/2021, accessible here Following previous measures that claimed to address crime and insecurity in vulnerable residential areas, some of which attracted harsh criticism from human rights and community-based groups, the government submitted a new draft law referred to as the “Security for All Danes” ...
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