Human Rights Committee publishes Draft General Comment on the Right to Peaceful Assembly

After a consultation process in which Amnesty International, including the PHRP team, participated, the Human Rights Committee published the first draft of the General Comment No. 37 on Article 21: right of peaceful assembly in June 2019.

The draft text sets out the obligations of States to not unduly interfere with peaceful assemblies, including setting out the narrow criteria and exceptional circumstances in which States may impose restrictions, in line with the principles of necessity and proportionality, on the the right to assemble, highlighting the requirement for a case by case evaluation and a burden of proof that remains with the State. It also stresses the State’s duty to accommodate, as far as possible, spontaneous assemblies or assemblies not notified to the authorities.

In order to ensure a fully human rights compliant interpretation of the right to peaceful assembly, it is important to stress the duty of the authorities to facilitate peaceful assemblies and to use force only in accordance with the principles of necessity and proportionality: to that end, PHRP considers it important to set clear thresholds for less-lethal weapons commonly used for crowd control, such as water canons and tear gas, and take a clear stance on the limited circumstances in which the dispersal of an assembly may be legitimate.

Beyond the preliminary observations submitted to the Committee, Amnesty and the PHRP team will stay involved in the process to contribute as much as possible to establishing strong legal standards on the right to peaceful assembly.