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II. Obligations arising from human rights standards

13. Freedom of association and peaceful assembly

Everyone has the rights to freedom of association and peaceful assembly. This includes the right to plan, organise, promote, and advertise peaceful marches, protests, and other types of gatherings to express views and advocate for or against changes in drug laws, policies, and practices, and the right to form and join organisations that advocate on matters related to drug laws, policies, and practices or are dedicated to working with individuals or groups affected by drugs and drug control efforts.

In accordance with this right, States should:

i. Take all necessary legislative, administrative, and other measures to ensure full enjoyment of the rights to freedom of association and peaceful assembly with respect to drug laws, policies, and practices.

ii. Refrain from requiring prior authorisation to hold a peaceful assembly regarding drug laws, policies, and practices, and exempt such spontaneous assemblies from prior notification procedures.

iii. Permit associations that advocate on matters related to drug laws, policies, and practices and that work with individuals and groups affected by drugs and drug control efforts, including unregistered associations, to receive and utilise financial contributions from domestic, foreign, and international sources.

Commentary:

The rights to freedom of association and peaceful assembly are guaranteed in numerous international instruments.[589] These political rights play an important role in empowering individuals, including those who are members of marginalised groups, to claim their rights, including the right to participation, and States have a positive obligation to actively protect and facilitate their exercise.[590] Yet in many jurisdictions, individuals who belong to marginalised communities, as well as those who advocate for the rights of such communities, particularly community-led organisations, face stigma, discrimination, legislative barriers, and harassment from State and non-State actors that impede their exercise of the rights to freedom of association and peaceful assembly.[591] Civil society activists and human rights defenders are especially at risk of violations and abuse in the exercise of these rights.[592] This is also frequently the case for those who advocate for the rights of people who use drugs and for the rights of communities affected by drug control efforts, including in particular community-led organisations.

States have an obligation to refrain from unduly interfering with the exercise of the rights to peaceful assembly and association and to facilitate the exercise of these rights.[593] States should make specific efforts to ensure equal and effective protection of the rights of groups or individuals who have historically experienced discrimination.[594] The exercise of the right to freedom of assembly should not be subject to a general requirement of prior authorisation.[595] While international human rights law also does not require advance notification of assembly, in certain specific circumstances such notice may be needed in order to enable State authorities to take measures to protect public safety and order and to ensure the rights and freedoms of others.[596] The Special Rapporteur on the rights to freedom of peaceful assembly and of association recommends that prior notification be required only for large meetings and meetings that may disrupt road traffic.[597] Furthermore, spontaneous assemblies should be recognised in law and exempted from prior notification.[598] Failure to notify authorities should not result in the automatic dissolution of an assembly or subject organisers to criminal sanctions or administrative sanctions resulting in fines or imprisonment.[599] These standards apply equally to peaceful assemblies concerning drug laws, policies, and practices.

The right to freedom of association includes the right to form and join an association and applies equally to everyone, including registered and unregistered entities, people belonging to minority groups, groups at risk, community-led organisations, and human rights defenders.[600] States should ensure that no one, including those involved in unregistered organisations, is criminalised for exercising the right to freedom of association.[601] States should put in place procedures that permit associations to be established after completing a process that is simple, easily accessible, non-discriminatory, and non-onerous or free of charge. Registration bodies should provide a detailed and timely written explanation for denying registration of an association, and such decisions should be open to challenge before an impartial, independent court.[602]

The Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women has noted with concern that insufficient funding of non-governmental organisations, including women’s non-governmental organisations, makes it difficult for them to build capacity to support women’s human rights. The Committee has thus recommended that States ‘develop clear criteria for rendering and ensuring governmental financial support on the national and local level for the work of women’s non-governmental organizations’.[603] UN human rights mechanisms have likewise acknowledged that the ability of civil society associations to access funding, whether from domestic, foreign, or international entities, is an integral part of the right to freedom of association.[604] Domestic funding to support non-governmental organisations may be limited or non-existent in many countries, often making access to funds from international donors and other international sources crucial to the existence of those organisations.[605] Funding restrictions, whether domestic or international, may also disproportionately affect associations that promote unpopular views.[606] UN human rights mechanisms recommend that funds for the purpose of defending human rights be ensured and facilitated by law and that States permit non-governmental organisations to access foreign funding, restricting such access only in the interest of transparency and as required under generally applicable foreign exchange and customs laws.[607] These standards apply equally to associations that advocate on matters related to drug laws, policies, and practices and to associations that work with, or are led by, individuals and groups affected by drugs and drug control efforts.

  • 589. ^

    Universal Declaration of Human Rights, G.A. Res. 217A (III) (1948), art. 20; International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, G.A. Res. 2200A (XXI) (1966), arts. 21, 22; International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination, G.A. Res. 2106A (XX) (1965), art. 5(d)(ix); Convention on the Rights of the Child, G.A. Res. 44/25 (1989), art. 15; Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women, G.A. Res. 34/180 (1979), art. 7; International Convention on the Protection of the Rights of All Migrant Workers and Members of Their Families, G.A. Res. 45/158 (1990), arts. 26, 40; Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, G.A. Res. 61/106 (2006), art. 29; African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights, OAU Doc. CAB/LEG/67/3 rev. 5 (1981), arts. 10, 11; African Charter on the Rights and Welfare of the Child, OAU Doc. CAB/LEG/24.9/49 (1990), art. 8; American Convention on Human Rights, O.A.S. Treaty Series No. 36 (1969), arts. 15, 16; [European] Convention for the Protection of Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms, ETS No. 5 (1950), art. 11; Arab Charter on Human Rights (2004), art. 24(5–7); see also Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe, Guidelines on Freedom of Peaceful Assembly (2010); African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights, Guidelines on Freedom of Association and Assembly in Africa (2017); African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights, Policing Assemblies in Africa: Guidelines for the Policing of Assemblies by Law Enforcement Officials in Africa (2017).

  • 590. ^

    Report of the Special Rapporteur on the Rights to Freedom of Peaceful Assembly and of Association, Maina Kiai, UN Doc. A/HRC/26/29 (2014), para. 72; Joint Report of the Special Rapporteur on the Rights to Freedom of Peaceful Assembly and of Association and the Special Rapporteur on Extrajudicial, Summary or Arbitrary Executions on the Proper Management of Assemblies, UN Doc. A/HRC/31/66 (2016), paras. 37, 40, 42.

  • 591. ^

    Report of the Special Rapporteur on the Rights to Freedom of Peaceful Assembly and of Association, Maina Kiai, UN Doc. A/HRC/26/29 (2014), paras. 10–11.

  • 592. ^

    Report of the Special Rapporteur on the Rights to Freedom of Peaceful Assembly and of Association, UN Doc. A/HRC/38/34 (2018), paras. 28–38.

  • 593. ^

    Report of the Special Rapporteur on the Rights to Freedom of Peaceful Assembly and of Association, Maina Kiai, UN Doc. /HRC/20/27 (2012), paras. 27, 33, 63–64; Joint report of the Special Rapporteur on the Rights to Freedom of Peaceful Assembly and of Association and the Special Rapporteur on Extrajudicial, Summary or Arbitrary Executions on the Proper Management of Assemblies, UN Doc. A/HRC/31/66 (2016), paras. 13–14.

  • 594. ^

    Joint Report of the Special Rapporteur on the Rights to Freedom of Peaceful Assembly and of Association and the Special Rapporteur on Extrajudicial, Summary or Arbitrary Executions on the Proper Management of Assemblies, UN Doc. A/HRC/31/66 (2016), paras. 21, 28(b).

  • 595. ^

    Joint Report of the Special Rapporteur on the Rights to Freedom of Peaceful Assembly and of Association and the Special Rapporteur on Extrajudicial, Summary or Arbitrary Executions on the Proper Management of Assemblies, UN Doc. A/HRC/31/66 (2016), paras. 21, 28(b).

  • 596. ^

    Report of the Special Rapporteur on the Rights to Freedom of Peaceful Assembly and of Association, Maina Kiai, UN Doc. A/HRC/20/27 (2012), para. 28; Report of the Special Rapporteur on the Rights to Freedom of Peaceful Assembly and of Association, UN Doc. A/HRC/23/29 (2013), para. 52; Joint Report of the Special Rapporteur on the Rights to Freedom of Peaceful Assembly and of Association and the Special Rapporteur on Extrajudicial, Summary or Arbitrary Executions on the Proper Management of Assemblies, UN Doc. A/HRC/31/66 (2016), paras. 21, 28(b).

  • 597. ^

    Report of the Special Rapporteur on the Rights to Freedom of Peaceful Assembly and of Association, Maina Kiai, UN Doc. A/HRC/20/27 (2012), para. 28.

  • 598. ^

    Report of the Special Rapporteur on the Rights to Freedom of Peaceful Assembly and of Association, Maina Kiai, UN Doc. A/HRC/20/27 (2012), para. 91; Joint Report of the Special Rapporteur on the Rights to Freedom of Peaceful Assembly and of Association and the Special Rapporteur on Extrajudicial, Summary or Arbitrary Executions on the Proper Management of Assemblies, UN Doc. A/HRC/31/66 (2016), para. 23; European Court of Human Rights, Bukta v. Hungary, Application No. 25691/04, 17 July 2007, paras. 35, 36.

  • 599. ^

    Report of the Special Rapporteur on the Rights to Freedom of Peaceful Assembly and of Association, Maina Kiai, UN Doc. A/HRC/20/27 (2012), para. 29; see also European Court of Human Rights, Novikova v. Russia, Application Nos. 25501/07, 57569/11, 80153/12, 5790/13, 35015/13, 12 September 2016, paras. 110, 163; European Court of Human Rights, Sergey Kuznetsov v. Russia, Application No. 10877/04, 23 January 2009, para. 45.

  • 600. ^

    Report of the Special Rapporteur on the Rights to Freedom of Peaceful Assembly and of Association, Maina Kiai, UN Doc. A/HRC/20/27 (2012), paras. 56, 84(b); see also UN General Assembly, Resolution 53/144: Declaration on the Right and Responsibility of Individuals, Groups and Organs of Society to Promote and Protect Universally Recognized Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms, UN Doc. A/RES/53/144 (1999), annex, art. 1.

  • 601. ^

    Report of the Special Rapporteur on the Rights to Freedom of Peaceful Assembly and of Association, Maina Kiai, UN Doc. A/HRC/20/27 (2012), paras. 56, 84(c).

  • 602. ^

    Report of the Special Rapporteur on the Rights to Freedom of Peaceful Assembly and of Association, Maina Kiai, UN Doc. A/HRC/20/27 (2012), para. 95.

  • 603. ^

    Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women, Concluding Observations: Lithuania, UN Doc. A/55/38 (Part I) (2000), paras. 154–155.

  • 604. ^

    Committee against Torture, Concluding Observations: Belarus, UN Doc. CAT/C/BLR/CO/4 (2011), para. 25; Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination, Concluding Observations: Ireland, UN Doc. CERD/C/IRL/CO/2 (2005), para. 12; Special Rapporteur on the Situation of Human Rights Defenders, Margaret Sekaggya, UN Doc. A/64/226 (2009), para. 91; Report of the Special Rapporteur on the Rights to Freedom of Peaceful Assembly and of Association, UN Doc. A/HRC/23/39 (2013), para. 16; see also UN General Assembly, Resolution 36/55: Declaration on the Elimination of All Forms of Intolerance Based on Religion or Belief, UN Doc. A/RES/36/55 (1981), para. 6(f); Human Rights Council, Resolution 22/6: Protecting Human Rights Defenders, UN Doc. A/HRC/RES/22/6 (2013); see also UN General Assembly, Resolution 53/144: Declaration on the Right and Responsibility of Individuals, Groups and Organs of Society to Promote and Protect Universally Recognized Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms, UN Doc. A/RES/53/144 (1999), annex, art. 13.

  • 605. ^

    Report of the Special Rapporteur on the Rights to Freedom of Peaceful Assembly and of Association, Maina Kiai, UN Doc. A/HRC/20/27 (2012), paras. 69; Report of the Special Representative of the Secretary-General on Human Rights Defenders, Hina Jilani, UN Doc. A/59/401 (2004), para. 75.

  • 606. ^

    Report of the Special Rapporteur on the Rights to Freedom of Peaceful Assembly and of Association, Maina Kiai, UN Doc. A/HRC/26/29 (2014), para. 57.

  • 607. ^

    Report of the UN Special Representative of the Secretary-General on Human Rights Defenders, UN Doc. A/59/401 (2004), para. 82 (l, t); Report of the Special Rapporteur on the Situation of Human Rights Defenders, Margaret Sekaggya, UN Doc. A/64/226 (2009), para. 123.

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