Mission to the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland by Maina Kiai, UN Special Rapporteur on the rights to freedom of peaceful assembly and of association. Official visit to the United Kingdom from 14 to 23 January 2013 to assess the situation of freedoms of peaceful assembly and association in the country.
Conclusion and recommendations
91. The Special Rapporteur reiterates the utmost importance of the rights to freedom of peaceful assembly and of association in a democratic society. This is all the more important as the United Kingdom, like much of the world, is going through some serious economic challenges that will undoubtedly cause dislocation and discontent. It is in such difficult times, with angry and frustrated citizens, that the respect for such rights must be at its highest.
92. The Special Rapporteur further stresses the importance of maintaining a culture of learning and improving by systematically using a human rights-based approach in all areas pertaining to the rights of freedom of peaceful assembly and of association. He is confident that the Government will see the following recommendations as an opportunity to consolidate the improvements made over the years in relation to the realization of these rights in the country. This would no doubt have a deep resonance at the international level, and influence other countries positively.
Right to freedom of peaceful assembly – England and Wales
93. The Special Rapporteur calls on the competent authorities to:
* Adopt a positive law on the right to freedom of peaceful assembly whose purpose is to facilitate and protect such right, in full consultation with civil society and other relevant stakeholders;
* Undertake a judge-led public enquiry into the Mark Kennedy case, and other related cases, with a view to giving a voice to victims, especially women, who had been deliberately deceived by their own government, and paving the way for reparations;
* Review legislation governing undercover policing specifying that peaceful protest groups should not be infiltrated;
Adopt a law on intelligence gathering with a view to increasing the accountability of intelligence services;
* Delete any records on peaceful protestors on the National Domestic Extremism Database and other intelligence databases;
* Adopt a tighter definition of “domestic extremism” and instruct police officers that peaceful protestors should not be categorized as domestic extremists;
* End the practice of containment or “kettling”;
* Ensure that law enforcement authorities which violate the rights to freedom of peaceful assembly are held personally and fully accountable for such violations by an independent and democratic oversight body, and by the courts of law; in this regard, command responsibility must be upheld;
* Law enforcement officers should wear identification badges at all times;
* Stop using pre-emptive measures targeted at peaceful protestors;
* Stop using stop-and-search powers in the context of peaceful protests;
* Stop imposing stringent bail conditions on peaceful protestors;
* Establish a protest ombudsman before whom protestors can challenge bail conditions;
* Stop enforcing private injunctions against peaceful protestors;
* Separate the protest liaison function from intelligence gathering;
* Always allow independent monitoring during peaceful protests and assemblies and ensure at all times the protection of those monitoring and reporting on violations and abuses in this context;
* Grant more powers to the Independent Police Complaints Commission, notably by allowing the Commission to report before Parliament, and increasing its resources; protestors should be able to bring complaints directly to the Commission; and a greater degree of diversity among the investigators should be achieved;
94. Private companies should not request private injunctions against peaceful protestors.
95. The Special Rapporteur calls on the competent authorities to:
* Ensure that the Parades Commission provides better and clearer reasons for its decisions, to enable the rationale for these to be understood, as well as making additional efforts at outreach and dialogue with the political classes;
* E nsu re that in the Parade Commission’s procedures and guidance publications it is made clear that the primary responsibility for maintaining peace during a parade lies with law enforcement officials and not parade organizers;
* Ensure that blatant and provocative violations of the Parade Commission’s determinations are prosecuted;
* Ensu re that PS N I actions are not only even-handed in terms of their management of law enforcement during parades and protests, but that they are seen to be even-handed;
* Stop using Attenuating Energy Projectiles (plastic bullets);
* Ensure that PSNls devise and fully implement training and policies aimed at preventing discriminatory practice on ground of gender.
96. The Special Rapporteur calls for political resolution of the issues – such as parades, flags and emblems – that still make the enjoyment of freedom of peaceful assembly problematic in Northern Ireland.
97. The Special Rapporteur calls on civil society organizations to continue facilitating dialogue between communities.
98. The Special Rapporteur calls on the competent authorities to:
* Amend the Police, Public Order and Criminal Justice (Scotland) Act 2006 with a view to reducing the notification period to a few days;
* Ensure that the exercise of the right to freedom of peaceful assembly is not subject to cost recovery measures
* Adopt a harmonized approach across local authorities to facilitating parades.
Right to freedom of association
99. In relation to the right to freedom of association, the Special Rapporteur calls on the authorities to:
* Ensure that measures taken by the State or by third parties in the context of counter-terrorism meet international human rights standards, in particular the principle of non-discrimination;
* Amend labour laws to establish a right not to be blacklisted, and to provide redress for those who have been victims of this practice;
* Ensure that the law also protects the right to strike, including secondary strikes in conformity with international human rights law.
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