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.

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UPDATE - 11 November 2019: The International Trial Watch, a platform bringing together lawyers from several countries to observe the Catalan Trial, published the assessment of the sentence: https://internationaltrialwatch.org/wp-content/uploads/2019/11/POSICIONAMIENTO_SENTENCIA_12112019-ingles-carta.pdf. The report states: "Due to all these reasons, international and national observers condemn the violation of human rights (civil and political ...
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A number of associations and collectives as well the "yellow vests" movements called for a peaceful climate and social justice march on 21 September. However, according to the Paris Observatory for Public Liberties, when degradations occurred from a small group of protesters, law enforcement authorities reacted with disproportionate and indiscriminate ...
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UPDATE - 26 April 2019: The Regional Directorate of the Police Corps in Trenčín, Criminal Police Department, decided that 12 activists from across Europe, who were peacefully protesting coal mining in the Horná Nitra region of Slovakia, committed no crime. They had been detained for 146 hours and released on ...
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(The Canary) Actions against Defence Security and Equipment International (DSEI) – one of the world’s largest arms fairs – started on 2 September and have been continuing through the week. The days of protest are following themes. And on 3 September, it was No Faith in War day. Quakers held a meeting of worship in ...
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Ahead the impressive and four-day long protest of XR in Manchester city centre, Netpol warned there might be massive arrests of the XR protesters. We have been given strong indications Greater Manchester Police is actively preparing for mass arrests of @ExtinctionR activists this weekend (including additional custody space), despite promises ...
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(The Guardian) Three anti-fracking activists have been given suspended prison sentences after breaking a ban on demonstrations which their lawyers argued “severely curtails the right to protest”. The trio were convicted after ignoring an injunction brought by the energy company Cuadrilla to protect its Preston New Road site near Blackpool, ...
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(The Guardian) About 100 people held after new prime minister vows to bring ‘order’ to Exarcheia area Greek police have arrested about 100 people in dawn raids on squats in Athens mostly occupied by refugees and migrants. Dozens of officers cleared four sites in the Exarcheia neighbourhood of the capital ...
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(New Statesman) Emmanuel Macron’s liberal image is at odds with his record on climate change and civil liberties. As French president Emmanuel Macron welcomed international leaders, including Boris Johnson and Donald Trump, to a seaside G7 summit in Biarritz, southwestern France, thousands marched on 24 August in neighbouring cities Bayonne and Hendaye ...
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(featured photo: rally in Italy in favour of sea rescue by Repstatic.it) (ECNL) On 5 August 2019, the Italian Parliament passed that a law that increases punishment for offences and crimes associated with public assemblies. The provisions of the law had been previously introduced by the government in a law ...
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