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:

Update 18 March 2019: On 26 February, HM Courts and Tribunal Service (HMCTS) issued an apology to the Standsted 15 after they were ordered back to court over aggravated trespassing. The hearing was cancelled. Their lawyer Raj Chada commented: “At least HMCTS have retracted and apologised to our clients. It doesn’t ...
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UPDATE 13 March 2019: On 12 March, the Senate approved the law. The civic opposition and the President of the Republic Emmanuel Macron have announced they will bring the law to the Constitutional Council. **** UPDATE 5 February 2019: According to Amnesty France the bill was approved by the General Assembly ...
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(Liberties on CIVICUS Monitor) On 6th and 7th December 2018 more than 100 people were detained in Athens and in Thessaloniki according to the authorities, following violent protests started by some of the protesters mobilised to commemorate the 10th anniversary of the fatal police shooting of a teenager in 2008. Some of the protesters reported to be anarchists ...
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UPDATE - 20 February 2019: Europa Press “Pedro Sanchez's decision to call general elections for April 28 will prevent the General Courts from approving two partial reforms of the Constitution and the repeal of laws such as the Citizen Security Law, renamed the 'Gag Law' by its detractors, or the ...
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(Dutch News) The Kick Out Zwarte Piet campaign group has made a formal complaint to the justice ministry about being included on a list of potential terrorist threats two years ago, the Parool reported on Friday. The activitists say they were wrongly included in a November 2017 report on the domestic ...
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/ Freedom of assembly, Netherlands
(Civicus Monitor) Peaceful Assembly A string of protests with reports of violence and hundreds of arrests took place in Belgium during the months of November and December 2018. Belgian police confirmed to have arrested about 60 protesters during French-inspired “yellow vest” protest in Brussels on 30th November 2018. They were reportedly arrested ...
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(European Civic Forum on CIVICUS Monitor) Protestors manhandled a rival politician during the Conservative People's Party of Estonia (EKRE) rally which was mobilised to protest against the United Nation’s Global Compact for Safe, Orderly and Regular Migration, held outside the Parliament of Estonia (Riigikogu) on 26th November 2018. #EKRE anti-migration pact rally gets ...
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(Ligue des droits de l'homme) On the eve of Act X of the mobilisation of the Yellow Vests, the League for Human Rights (LDH) is concerned about the repression of demonstrators. It calls on the government to prevent all police violence and to guarantee the right to demonstrate in complete safety ...
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(Ecologist) More than a thousand people marched amidst heavy police presence during Katowice climate talks. More than a thousand people marched amidst heavy police presence to demand negotiators and ministers attending the UN climate talks in the southern Polish city of Katowice take more ambitious action on climate change. Campaigners and activists from around ...
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/ Freedom of assembly
(Disability News Service) Police forces are repeatedly targeting and assaulting disabled people involved in peaceful anti-fracking protests, campaigners have told Disability News Service (DNS). The police often target prominent environmental campaigners for surveillance. They have also targeted people seen as vulnerable - include those with disabilities - for arrest. Watch our ...
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/ Freedom of assembly, United Kingdom
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