2014: The Year in Association and Assembly Rights

By Maina Kiai, UN Special Rapporteur on the rights to freedom of peaceful assembly and of association, Jan. 9, 2015

It is still too early to tell just how 2014 will be remembered from the perspective of assembly and association rights: The year of the protest; the year of the revolution, the year of shrinking space. 

But one thing is certain: It will be a year that we remember. 

Hong Kong, Ukraine, Taiwan, Egypt, Thailand, Venezuela, Burkina Faso, Mexico and Cambodia and other countries saw massive protests, with at least three movements leading to the downfall of governments. Draconian laws affecting the assembly and association rights of LGBTI individuals went into effect in Nigeria and Uganda. Leading human rights defenders from Bahrain, Azerbaijan, China, Burundi, Ethiopia, Sudan, Malaysia, and elsewhere experienced a wave of harassment, threats and violence. The Hungarian prime minister famously said that he wanted to turn his country into an “illiberal state.” And Egypt used mass trials to sentence over a 1,000 people to death for on charges related to events leading up to President Mohammed Morsi’s ouster. (...)

The assembly and association rights of minorities and indigenous peoples are frequently targeted, such as in Canada, where the government reportedly tasked between 2007 and 2010 a special intelligence unit with spying on First Nations groups engaging in protest activities. LGBTI individuals have also faced a wave of severe repression in recent years, particularly in Eastern Europe, the Middle East and Africa. In Nigeria, for example, a new law recently made it a criminal offense to register, operate, participate in or support “gay clubs, societies, organizations, processions or meetings.”

Kiai noted that some restrictions on marginalized groups actually have the support of the wider population, partially because people tend to fear or disregard those who are different from them. This fear is misguided, he said, because governments can manipulate it to their own ends. (...)

To read the report in full, please click on the link below.