GENEVA: As authorities worldwide grapple with swelling demonstrations over issues like political rights and racial justice, a UN committee reaffirmed that protesting peacefully, online or in person, is a fundamental human right.
The independent experts on the Human Rights Committee published a fresh interpretation of the right of peaceful assembly, offering comprehensive legal guidance about where and how it applies and also outlining governments’ obligations.
“Recent developments, including the COVID-19 pandemic, have created unprecedented challenges” to ensuring the right to peaceful assembly, the committee said in a statement.
“And worldwide protests in support of Black Lives Matter have underlined its importance,” it added.
The committee, made up of 18 independent experts, is tasked with monitoring how countries implement the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR), which under Article 21 guarantees the right to peaceful assembly.
“It is a fundamental human right for individuals to join a peaceful assembly to express themselves, to celebrate, or to air grievances,” committee member Christof Heyns said in the statement.
“Together with other rights related to political freedom, it constitutes the very foundation of a democratic society.”
He stressed that the right belongs to everyone, without exception.
“Everyone, including children, foreign nationals, women, migrant workers, asylum seekers and refugees, can exercise the right of peaceful assembly,” he said, adding that such gatherings can take many forms, “in public and in private spaces, outdoors, indoors and online.”