New technologies and their impact on the promotion and protection of human rights in the context of assemblies: Submission to the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights

In October, PHRP in collaboration with the Amnesty’s Law and Policy Programme and Tech Team, responded to a call for input by the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights for an upcoming report on the impact of new technologies on the right to freedom of peaceful assembly. The ability of people to access communication technologies in a secure and private manner has become vital for the organization and conduct of peaceful assemblies, and the internet can be of vital importance both in facilitating physical assemblies as well as in serving as a venue for an assembly within its own right. It is therefore crucial for the right to freedom of peaceful assembly to be protected both in the online and offline spheres.

In many countries, authorities however (mis)use new technologies to impede the right to freedom of peaceful assembly: from instances of online surveillance to mass data gatherings, censorship on social media, heavy penalties for voicing dissent online to internet shutdowns. Law enforcement agencies also increasingly make use of new technologies, including the use of facial recognition, CCTV, IMSI catchers, and bodycams, posing new risks to the right to freedom of peaceful assembly. Weapons technology used in the course of public assemblies constantly evolves and more and more sophisticated weapons are being developed, including autonomous weapons systems which can select, attack, injure and kill targets without meaningful human control.

Amnesty International’s submission can be found here.