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:

Report by Netpol, published on 14 April 2021, available here. At least 62 people injured by police violence in Bristol, new figures reveal. With significant misreporting from the media Bristol #KillTheBill protests, including false reports from Avon and Somerset police that officers had received injuries including broken bones, Bristol Defendant Solidarity have been recording instances of ...
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- Analysis by ECNL published on 21 April 2021, available here. The Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Bill, if introduced in its current form, casts protest as an inconvenience rather than a fundamental right to be protected. The Bill is currently at Committee Stage where detailed examination of the Bill ...
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Over 200 civil society organisations (from 19 European countries, plus international CSOs) sent a letter to the Portuguese Presidency of the Council of the EU, ahead of the EU General Affairs Council on April 20, expressing deep concerns over the deteriorating situation in Poland. The organisations are calling on the EU to address breaches of the rule of ...
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- ECF Update to the CIVICUS Monitor, published on 31 March 2021, available here. Association New draft Law on Local Governments In the first week of December 2020, the Ministry of Environmental Protection and Regional Development held an inter-institutional conciliation meeting regarding the new Law on Local Governments. The new law will ...
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- Update by CIVICUS monitor, published on 09 April 2021, available here. Introduction As reported previously, protests have been ongoing since October 2020 when the Constitutional Tribunal (CT) ruled to impose a near-total ban on abortion. The ruling of the CT has yet again highlighted how the ruling Law and Justice (PiS) ...
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- ECF update to the CIVICUS Monitor, published on 04 April 2021, available here. Background Following the murder of teacher Samuel Paty as a result of an islamophobia smear campaign, and the terrorist attack in Nice at the end of October 2020, French authorities have cracked down on civil society organisations (CSOs) ...
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- ECF update to the CIVICUS Monitor, published on 12 April 2021, available here. Association Ruling elite obstructs anti-corruption investigation An on-going investigation involving the conservative ruling party in Austria has raised concerns over the integrity and separation of powers in the country. An anti-corruption investigation is under way, which consists ...
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- 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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- ECF update to the CIVICUS Monitor, published on 06 April 2021, accessible here. Introduction As reported previously on the Monitor, the UK government and authorities have been cracking down on the right to peaceful assembly, with senior government officials labelling environmental and racial justice movements as ‘criminals’. During this reporting 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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