48th Human Rights Council Reports

48th Human Rights Council 7


September 29, 2021: Panel Discussion on the Promotion and Protection of Human Rights in the Context of Peaceful Protests.

All sources used to draft the report can be found here. Report drafted by Marc Enzo Belligoi Gomis on September 30th, 2021.

Composition of the HRC

Panel Discussion

Mister Vice-President Yuri Borissov Sterk opened the Panel Discussion on the 29th of September at 15:00pm.

Ms. Michele Bachelet the High Commissioner for Human Rights began her statement by stating that it had been 10 years since the previous Panel Discussion on the Promotion and Protection of Human rights in the Context of Peaceful Protests, which occurred during the context of the Arab Spring. Ms. Bachelet remarked that the right to peaceful protest and assembly is a human right, which is instrumental for the achievement of other human rights. Therefore, governments need to take in the feedback and criticisms for their actions expressed through peaceful protests and must guarantee the safety and protection of these rights and of the individuals exercising them. The High Commissioner also expressed concern for the number of human rights violations in the context of protests, such as executions, detentions, violence, and arbitrary surveillance both physically and online, and commended the work of journalists and other members of civil society who play and essential role in the promotion and protection of human rights, often exposing themselves to significant risks. Finally, Ms. Bachelet stated that the High Commissioners Office will continue to assist states and offer guidelines on how to guarantee the right to peaceful protest and assembly.

Mr. Clement Nyaletsassi Voule, Special Rapporteur on the Rights of Freedom of Assembly and Association, was pleased to note the international community's interest in the work done by his mandate. Mr. Nyaletsassi stated that peaceful protest should not be viewed as a threat to states and cited the tools published by his mandate on how states should appropriately deal with and protect these rights. However, the Special Rapporteur noted that there is an ongoing lack on the implementation of such norms and stressed his alarm at the increasing trend on the use of force by law enforcement officials against demonstrators and the media. Mr. Nyaletsassi also stated how technologies are being used to conduct mass surveillance and spread misinformation and hatred as well as noted the use by some states of unjustified measures against protests by using Covid 19 as an excuse.

Mr. Yuval Shany stated that when peaceful protests deal with the protection of human rights, those protesters should be regarded as human rights defenders and stressed that states are obligated to protect the lives of all human rights defenders. Mr. Shany also expressed that any restrictions on peaceful demonstrations must be proportionate in nature and that police forces must communicate in advance with organizers of assemblies if the latter agree to do so. Finally, Mr. Shany stated that the use of force must only be implemented when those protesters use violence, however, isolated incidents of violence do not justify characterizing the whole assembly as violent.

Ms. Lysa John stated that there are multiple examples of civil society and social movements in the world galvanizing positive change, however, there have been countless cases of peoples' right to assembly being violated throughout in numerous ways. Ms. John called on the international community to address four challenges in order to promote the right to peaceful protest: 1) The use of emergency law to stifle protests. 2) The use of internet shutdowns and other measures to restrict access to technology. 3) The use of artificial intelligence and surveillance to threaten protesters. 4) the use of financial restrictions against protesters. Finally, Ms. John stressed the need for the international community to work together to foster a more consistent application of human rights standards.

Commissioner Luis Carrilho, speaking on behalf of the United Nations Police, stated that the mission of the United Nations Police is to enhance international peace and security by supporting Member States. Mr. Carrilho emphasized that every United Nations Police officer is a human rights officer, and that the institution is continually working on the development and improvement of best practices in police work. The Commissioner also detailed how the United Nations Police has developed the Strategic Guidance Framework for international policing, to ensure that policing forces have a united point of reference to fulfill their obligations and responsibilities in a manner which guarantees human rights.


The European Union expressed concern for the situation on the ground of people exercising their right to peaceful protest and assembly, and how in many countries demonstrators are met with force and criminalized. The EU also stated that Covid 19 must not be used as a pretext to restrict human rights and stressed the need to use new technologies in a way that they do not violate the human rights of demonstrators.

Lithuania, on behalf of the Nordic Baltic Countries, thanked the panelists and stated that the right to peaceful protest and assembly is indispensable for any democratic society. Lithuania also expressed concern for protesters, human rights defenders and journalists who are facing risk of assault and reprisal for participating in peaceful protests. Finally, Lithuania stated the need for Covid 19 restrictions to be proportionate as well as the need to utilize new technologies in a way which respects human rights.

Switzerland, on behalf of 30 states, stated that there is a well-established international framework on the right to protest and, therefore, there is ample guidance available to better protect this human right. However, states continue to use excessive force to repress peaceful demonstrators. Switzerland also called attention to the need to face the challenges of internet shutdowns, surveillance of demonstrators and the criminalization of protesters around the world.

Armenia thanked the panelists and detailed the visit of the Special Rapporteur in the country. Armenia also stated that civil society actors continue to maintain an essential role to guarantee democratic values in the country and detailed national measures implemented to protect the full range of human rights.

Costa Rica stressed the importance of peaceful protesters as a sign of a healthy, functional, and respectful democratic system. Costa Rica also stated that the Covid 19 pandemic has exacerbated social tensions and inequalities around the world and called for countries to respond to the needs expressed by those who protest peacefully.

The United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF) stated that children have the same right of freedom of assembly which adults have, and this right constitutes one of the few ways in which children can express their opinions. UNICEF also detailed the higher risk for children due to their vulnerability and called on states to provide children with information on the right of assembly and how to protect themselves.

The USA expressed concern for the situation of the right of peaceful protest around the world, in particular in Cuba, Nicaragua and Afghanistan, and criticized those governments for not fulfilling their international obligations.

Poland aligned itself with the statement of the EU. Poland also stated that peaceful protests can occur in all societies and that they play a key role in the enjoyment of civic, economic, social, and cultural rights. Poland called on states to not to use Covid 19 to implement draconian measures against protesters.

The UK stressed that peaceful protests pay an important role in the development of open societies. The UK expressed concern for the repression of peaceful protests around the world and stated that they are working closely with international partners to promote the right to peaceful protest and assembly.

Malawi acknowledged the law of peaceful protests in the realization of human rights and ensured that protests conducted in the country will fulfill a lawful mandate without violating the rights of others.

Colombia stated that it recognizes and guarantees the right to peaceful protest in the country, however, Colombia stressed that the right had to be exercised in a peaceful manner. Colombia expressed that the right does not allow situations of blockages to the free movement of persons, which can threaten the right to life and food.

UNESCO stated that hundreds of journalists around the world have faced violence, repression, and surveillance, especially women journalists who have been deliberately attacked. UNESCO also called for the end of impunity for such acts.

Israel recognized the vital importance that the right to peaceful protest has on democratic societies and stated that the country has guaranteed that right even during the Covid 19 pandemic. Israel also stated that new technologies can maximize people's participation in peaceful protests and called for the need to protect these technologies.

Iraq stated that democracy worldwide requires cooperation between public and non-public institutions, which must ensure the right to peaceful protest and assembly. Iraq detailed national measures to ensure those rights, and also stated that new technologies and social media can be vehicles for disseminating misleading information and jeopardizing social peace.

Vanuatu expressed the potential that new technologies have to enable people to protest and assemble peacefully through mobilization networks. Vanuatu also expressed concern for the situation of human rights in West Papua, especially for indigenous peoples.

Indonesia rejected the accusations expressed by Vanuatu and stated that Indonesia guarantees the right to peaceful protest and assembly, and that the state has facilitated this right even during the Covid 19 pandemic.

Luxembourg aligned itself with the statement made by the EU. Luxembourg also stated that the right of peaceful protest and assembly is indispensable for democratic countries and criticized those authoritarian states which repress demonstrators.

Montenegro stated that in the last 10 years there have been significant progress for the right to peaceful protest and assembly, however, there are too many cases around the world in which peaceful protests face repression, excessive use of force, and persecution by the authorities.

South Africa conveyed how peaceful protests where fundamental to bring down the brutal and repressive Apartheid system and stated how peaceful protests can be used as a tool to express disappointment towards the authorities for the continued systemic racism practices.

The United Nations Development Program stated that in the past few years there has been vibrant participation movements, including youth movements on climate change, against racism, and against gender discrimination, but the Covid 19 pandemic has impacted civic engagement worldwide.

Mauritania stated that the importance of the right to peaceful demonstration is evident in the strengthening and efficiency of democratic processes and detailed how in Mauritania this right is guaranteed by the constitution.

Togo explained how in 2019 they implemented a new law establishing conditions for peaceful demonstrations, taking into account security challenges linked to terrorism and the protection of the rights of local inhabitants. However, recently the government has undertaken to reexamine certain provisions of this law.

Cuba denounced the comments made by the US. Cuba also expressed concern for the situation of the right to peaceful protest and assembly in the US, in particular regarding to Covid 19, to demonstrations from the election in 2020, and for violations of the rights of afro descendants by the police.

India stated that the right to peaceful protest and assembly is recognized by the Indian Constitution. India also conveyed how the founding fathers of the country, especially Gandhi, always recognized this right as a fundamental tool to change the world.

The written statements by non-governmental speakers can be found here.


Cultural Diversity and Sustainable Development for Peace