To Facilitate and Protect: State Obligations and the Right of Peaceful Assembly in International Human Rights Law

In: Asia-Pacific Journal on Human Rights and the Law
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  • 1 University of East Anglia, Associate Professor of Public Protest Law, Norwich, United Kingdom

This article distinguishes the obligation of States to ‘facilitate’ and ‘protect’ the right of peaceful assembly under Article 21 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (iccpr) from State practices that rather seek to ‘manage’ or ‘control’ its exercise. Focusing on the protection of public assemblies in the Asia-Pacific region and drawing principally on the UN Human Rights Committee’s assembly jurisprudence and its Concluding Observations on State reports, it emphasises the critical importance of the language in which State obligations are framed and understood. Many domestic laws over-regulate the right of assembly by creating broad discretionary powers, impermissible grounds of restriction, bureaucratic procedures and onerous liabilities. Such laws reinforce a police ego-image premised on the pernicious logic of ‘management’ and encourage preventive policing tactics that fundamentally undermine the right of peaceful assembly.