UN expert launches new tools for law enforcement to foster peaceful protest


States should uphold their human rights obligations and facilitate, not suppress, peaceful protests, a UN expert said today as he presented a set of new practical and technical tools for law enforcement.

“The Human Rights Council’s call for practical tools to help law enforcement responds to a growing trend in all regions of the world of repression and undue restrictions on peaceful protest, including through the use of new technologies,” said Clément Voule, UN Special Rapporteur on the rights to freedom of peaceful assembly and of association.

At the 55th session of the UN Human Rights Council, Voule presented a Model Protocol for Law Enforcement Officials to Promote and Protect Human Rights in the Context of Peaceful Protests to assist States in meeting their human rights obligations. The Protocol is part of a set of practical and technical tools to assist law enforcement officials in facilitating peaceful protests, which the Special Rapporteur developed in collaboration with UNODC and OHCHR as requested by Human Rights Council Resolution 50/21.

The model protocol is complemented by checklists for law enforcement officials, a principles-based guide for the human rights-compliant use of digital technologies in the context of protests, and a handbook to be developed by the end of 2024.

“These tools operationalise existing international human rights laws and standards and reflect best practices gathered from around the world through extensive regional and global consultations with different stakeholders including law enforcement practitioners,” the expert said.

Voule stressed that the new tools provide practical guidance on how to ensure that law enforcement decisions, strategies and actions at all stages of protests are based on the principles of non-discrimination, precaution and accountability, and aim to de-escalate and prevent the use of force.

“States should use the new tools to adopt and revise their protocols and procedures and build the capacity of law enforcement officials to urgently close the current gaps in human rights protection in the context of protests,” the Special Rapporteur said.

He noted that to strengthen the protection and promotion of human rights in the context of peaceful protests, States must also create an enabling environment and legal framework that promotes civic space and freedoms, and should ensure that law enforcement institutions are human rights-based, democratic, inclusive and held accountable for abuses and misconduct.

“Authorities should ensure that individuals and groups can freely mobilise and come together to make their voices heard, denounce injustices, defend rights, call for peace and express solidarity with victims to confront the pressing challenges facing the world today, including wars, inequalities and the climate crisis,” the expert said.

Voule stressed the importance of creating spaces for dialogue and cooperation with civil society and protest movements.

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