HRC44 – Item 3 – Freedom of assembly and association
HRHF oral statement
- SR FOAA report on 10th anniversary of mandate (A/HRC/44/50)
- UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Michelle Bachelet’s statement on peaceful protests
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The Special Rapporteur highlights the challenges that Covid-19 presents to freedom of assembly and association, and identifies strong principles for addressing them.
Across our network of Human Rights Houses, we have seen civil society rising to the challenge of fighting the pandemic, often filling gaps in providing public health information and essential provisions and services where the response of the state has been lacklustre. And yet we have also seen renewed crack-downs on their lawful activities, often cynically carried out by authorities under the guise of responding to the pandemic.
In Azerbaijan, we have witnessed increased attacks by authorities on peaceful protests and dissenting and opposition voices. There have been numerous arbitrary arrests and detentions, disproportionately targeting critical voices, including human rights defenders protesting alone.
Additionally, attacks have increased against the political opposition. These attacks followed President Aliyev’s statements in his 19 March 2020 Nowruz address indicating his intention to use pandemic response measures to crackdown on the opposition and limit the freedom of association.
In Belarus, in just the last few weeks, we have seen the authorities violently suppress peaceful protests ahead of the Presidential election in August. Viasna has just reported that the number of places where people can legitimately campaign around the election has been significantly reduced. In the capital Minsk, a city of two million people, there are only six such places now allowed.
We ask the Special Rapporteur how states should cooperate with civil society to better address the threats and challenges that have emerged over the past ten years, and those new challenges that come as a result of Covid-19?