Yesterday, March 4, 2013, the Cairo Institute for Human Rights Studies (CIHRS) presented an oral intervention on the legislation regulating the right to freedom of assembly in the Arab region before the United Nations Human Rights Council (HRC), whose 22nd session is currently convened in Geneva.
In an Oral Intervention to the UN Human Rights Council:
While CIHRS called attention in its intervention to the violations which continue to be seen in the Arab world in the context of ongoing waves of mass protests, it also affirmed that this problem is one of legislation as well as practice. CIHRS presented an overview of the main legislative tools which are used by Arab governments to repress peaceful protests and assemblies, pointing out that assembly laws enacted or currently in draft form in countries as varied as Egypt, Morocco, Algeria, Yemen, and Bahrain “fall far short of meeting international standards and are all in need of major reform. In many cases, these laws exhibit signs of careful drafting, and the intention is clear: to suppress, rather than support, the right to freedom of assembly.”
CIHRS asserted that these laws restrict assemblies in a variety of ways, including through requiring prior authorization from the government for gatherings, granting the authorities broad powers to condition or prohibit assemblies as they see fit, holding organizers unduly responsible for any acts identified as criminal which may occur during the assembly, imposing excessive penal sanctions for minor infractions or breaches to laws which are themselves overly restrictive, limiting freedom of expression during assemblies, and failing to limit the use of force against protestors by police or holding state security accountable when they abuse the rights of those assembling.
In its closing statement, CIHRS drew attention to the clear need to translate international human rights standards into law and practice at the national level in countries all across the globe. CIHRS further urged the HRC to begin to seriously address this issue within the upcoming Resolution on the Promotion and Protection of Human Rights in the Context of Peaceful Protests.
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