Governments increase risk of violence by cracking down on peaceful protests, expert warns

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The global trend to respond militarily to protests It has produced an escalation of violence and human rights abuses, the special rapporteur on the right to peaceful assembly and association warned on Monday.

In the report on the subject that he presented to the UN Human Rights Council, Clément N. Voule highlighted the continuous reduction of civic spaces by governments, warning of the worsening of the crises that this produces.

“Instead of seeing peaceful protest as a democratic means of participation, too often governments resort to repression to suppress them and silence people’s voices,” Voule said.

The expert pointed out that governments around the world deploy their armies and apply military tactics to quell peaceful protests, in addition to prosecute protesters in military courts

As a result, violence, tensions, violations of human rights and impunity.

Sexual abuse to silence women

In the case of female protesters, the effect of the military approach is especially intimidating as it sometimes seeks to silence them through sexual abuse.

The report devotes particular attention to the response to peaceful protests in crisis situations, including the widespread stigmatization of protest movements.

“States refer to protests as threats to stability and as triggers of crises and then repress them,” said the UN expert.

Shoot to kill orders

He criticized the increasingly common use of illegal and excessive force to break up protests, including the use of deadly force.

“Authorities are issuing general shoot-to-kill orders in response to the protests. Less lethal weapons have also been misused to inflict serious injuries, resulting in deaths of protesters. These violations must stop immediately. States must accept peaceful protests”, stressed Voule.

The expert called on States to ensure that people are not persecuted, illegally arrested, criminalized, tortured, killed or harmed for exercising their fundamental freedom of peaceful assembly.

He also stressed that excessive emergency measures by States to suppress peaceful protests have become common, increasing even more during the COVID-19 pandemic.

The state of emergency does not justify the violation of human rights

“The imposition of the state of emergency does not give states carte blanche to violate human rights. Regardless of the crisis they face, including an emergency or war, States are bound by their human rights obligationswhich stipulate the right to peaceful assembly”, stressed the special rapporteur.

Finally, Voule urged States to engage with protesters, listen to their concerns and address the root causes of crises. “By creating an environment conducive to peaceful protests and listening to the legitimate demands of protesters, governments can adopt more responsive and fair policies and can reach inclusive, participatory and peaceful solutions to crisis situations,” the expert said.

* The special rapporteurs are part of the Special Procedures of the Human Rights Council. The Special Procedures, the largest body of independent experts in the UN Human Rights system, is the general name for the independent investigative and monitoring mechanisms established by the Council to deal with specific situations in countries or thematic issues around the world. the world. The experts of the Special Procedures work on a voluntary basis; they are not UN staff and do not receive a salary for their work. They are independent of any government or organization and act in their individual capacity.

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