"Take back the streets": Repression and criminalization of protest around the world. International Network of Civil Liberties Organizations (INCLO), October 2013, pp.35

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This report, by a group of ten international human rights organisations which cooperate as INCLO, contains nine case studies about how governments around the world have reacted to peaceful protests or rallies. It also includes a summary essay on the “Promotion and Protection of Human Rights in the Context of Social Protests: Main International Standards Regulating the Use of Force by the Police” and concludes by making three recommendations (on regulation of less-lethal weapons, clarifying the scope of human rights protection for protests and vigilance in relation to the limitations on the right to protest).

The case studies, originating from Argentina, Canada, Egypt, Israel, Kenya, Hungary, South Africa, the UK and the USA, present a unique state reaction in a domestic context and each was written by a different domestic civil liberties and human rights organisation.

The examples collected in this report illustrate how too often governments around the world react with excessive use of violence, sometimes fatal, against peaceful protests and public assemblies, and how they seem to ignore the fact that participating in protests and public assemblies are fundamental rights at the base of any healthy democracy. The state should respect, promote and protect these rights but justice systems in multiple countries seem to be unable to undertake the independent investigations necessary to hold powerful actors accountable for their actions. Police forces often make use of powers created for different purposes against demonstrators with the deliberate aim of discouraging them, sometimes using unnecessary violence or weapons.

There is a clear need for more detailed international standards protecting these vital rights and the legal standards already in place need to be translated into practice on the ground. Finally, the report reminds us that, governments should regard protests and assemblies as healthy and democratic exercises that ensure good governance instead of treating them as an inconvenience or something to be controlled or discouraged.

The full report is available here (pdf).

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