What Are The Rights To Freedom Of Peaceful Assembly And Of Association?

The rights to freedom of peaceful assembly
and association are among the most important
human rights we possess. Simply put, these rights protect peoples’ ability
to come together and work for the common
good. They are a vehicle for the exercise of
many other civil, cultural, economic, political
and social rights, allowing people to express
their political opinions, engage in artistic pursuits, engage in religious observances,
form and join trade unions, elect leaders to
represent their interests and hold them
accountable. Today, the rights to freedom of peaceful
assembly and of association are enshrined in
international law as fundamental freedoms. But
their philosophical origins are not cultural, or
specific to a particular place and time. Rather,
these rights are born from our common human heritage, rooted in the simple fact that every
civilization is built upon cooperation and
collaboration, from many and not one. It is
human nature – and human necessity – that
people come together to collectively pursue
their interests. Vibrant assembly and association rights are a prerequisite not only
for a legitimate democracy, but also for a just society. The Right To Freedom Of Peaceful Assembly The right to freedom of peaceful assembly is
the right to gather publicly or privately and
collectively express, promote, pursue and
defend common interests. This right includes the right to participate in
peaceful assemblies, meetings, protests,
strikes, sit-ins, demonstrations and other
temporary gatherings for a specific purpose.
States not only have an obligation to protect
peaceful assemblies, but should also to take measures to facilitate them. Everyone has the right to peaceful assembly.
States may not limit this right for certain groups
based on race, color, sex, language, religion,
political or other opinion, national or social
origin, property, birth or any other status. Under international law, the right to freedom of
peaceful assembly is not absolute. Assemblies
may be subject to certain restrictions, but
such measures must be prescribed by law and
“necessary in a democratic society in the
interests of national security or public safety, public order, the protection of public health or
morals or the protection of the rights and
freedoms of others.” Any restrictions must
meet a strict test of necessity and
proportionality. Freedom must be the rule and
not the exception. Restrictions should never impair the essence of the right. International
law only protects assemblies which are
peaceful, and the peaceful intentions of those
assembling should be presumed. The Right To Freedom Of Association The right to freedom of association is the right
to join a formal or informal group to take
collective action. This right includes the right to form and/or join
a group. Conversely, it includes the right not to be compelled to join an association.
Associations can include civil society
organizations, clubs, cooperatives, NGOs,
religious associations, political parties, trade
unions, foundations or even online
associations. There is no requirement that the association be registered in order for freedom
of association rights to apply. Everyone has the right to freedom of
association. States may not limit this right for
certain groups based on race, color, sex,
language, religion, political or other opinion,
national or social origin, property, birth or any
other status. States are obliged to take positive measures to
establish and maintain an enabling environment
for associations. States must also refrain from
unduly obstructing the exercise of the right to
freedom of association, and respect the
privacy of associations. As with the right to peaceful assembly, States may place certain
restrictions on the right to freedom of
association. But such measures must be
prescribed by law and “necessary in a
democratic society in the interests of national
security or public safety, public order, the protection of public health or morals or the
protection of the rights and freedoms of
others.”Any restrictions on the right to freedom
of association must meet a strict test of
necessity and proportionality. The right to freedom of association also
includes the right of groups to access funding
and resources, as detailed in the Special
Rapporteur’s April 2013 report (see also our general principles on protecting civic space
and the right to access resources , which was produced in collaboration with the Community of Democracies). International Law The rights to freedom of peaceful assembly
and of association are enshrined in a number
of international and regional human rights
instruments. Click here to learn more. Also be sure to check out the Special Rapporteur’s factsheets, a series of easy-to-use documents which summarize key points in
international law (with hyperlinks to key
sources of law and best practices)

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