Freedom of Expression

Press Release R331/19

Presentation of the thematic Report of the Office of the Special Rapporteur for Freedom of Expression of the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights, on Protest and Human Rights

December 20, 2019

Washington D.C., Social protest is an essential element for the existence and consolidation of democratic societies and is protected by a constellation of rights and freedoms guaranteed by the Inter-American system. Protest also plays a central role in the defense of democracy and human rights, which in the region has contributed to the conquest of rights by different social groups. The region, far from presenting a panorama of consensus regarding the protection of demonstrations, has been the scene of actions of repression, dispersion and limitation of the exercise of these rights, product of a conception that considers citizen mobilization as a form of alteration of public order or as a threat to the stability of democratic institutions.

In a context in which protests are once again part of everyday life in the region, the IACHR and its Special Rapporteur’s Office presented last Friday, December 13, the thematic report Protest and Human Rights, with which they hope to contribute to a better understanding of the State's obligations to guarantee, protect and facilitate peaceful protests and public demonstrations. For the IACHR and its Special Rapporteur’s Office, dialogue should be the priority tool to be use by States actors over citizens' demands, as well as to adopt clear standards to guide the use of force as the last resort to confront situations of violence in the context of protests.

The event included interventions by the Executive Secretary of the IACHR, Paulo Abrao, the IACHR's Special Rapporteur on Freedom of Expression, Edison Lanza, the United Nations Special Rapporteur on the Rights to Freedom of Peaceful Assembly and Association, Clement Voulé, as well as civil society organizations and experts from the region and internationally who have contributed to the development of this report. The principles on protest and the right to information developed by the Open Society Justice Initiative and the Committee on the Administration of Justice were also presented.

The IACHR and its Special Rapporteur’s Office consider the presentation of this report to be timely in fostering an exchange of reflections on the regional situation of protection of demonstrations and patterns of human rights violations in this context. The report aims to contribute to a better understanding of social protest in terms of:

·         The State obligations to guarantee protect and facilitate protests.

·         The obligation of the security forces to protect and manage the development of demonstrations and protests, and the standards that should frame the progressive use - and as a last resort - of force in this context.

·         The fundamental role that journalists play in gathering and disseminating information about what happens in demonstrations and protests, including the actions of the security forces.

·         The role of access to and production of information as a fundamental component of social control over protest management.

The IACHR is a principal, autonomous body of the Organization of American States (OAS), the IACHR derives its mandate from the OAS Charter and the American Convention on Human Rights. The Inter-American Commission has a mandate to promote respect for and to defend human rights in the region and acts as a consultative body to the OAS in this area. The Commission is composed of seven independent members who are elected in an individual capacity by the OAS General Assembly and who do not represent their countries of origin or residence.

Access the full report here.