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1. What is included within the notion of “assembly”?

The notion of “assembly” covers a wide range of different types of gatherings, whether in public or private places, and whether static or moving. Examples of gatherings that international courts and mechanisms have held to be assemblies include demonstrations,[1] pickets,[2] processions,[3] rallies,[4] sits-in,[5] roadblocks,[6] gatherings or meetings in privately-owned places,[7] occupations of buildings,[8] and the public reading of press statements.[9] The UN Special Rapporteur has provided the following definition, which has also been embraced by the AComHPR’s Study Group on Freedom of Association and Assembly in Africa:
An “assembly” is an intentional and temporary gathering in a private or public space for a specific purpose. It therefore includes demonstrations, inside meetings, strikes, processions, rallies or even sits-in.[10]
The ECtHR stresses that the term “assembly” should be broadly understood:
The right to freedom of assembly is a fundamental right in a democratic society … Thus, it should not be interpreted restrictively. As such this right covers both private meetings and meetings in public thoroughfares as well as static meetings and public processions; in addition, it can be exercised by individuals and those organising the assembly.[11]
The OSCE-ODIHR Guidelines on Freedom of Peaceful Assembly use similar wording, but add that an assembly must have a “common expressive purpose”:
For the purposes of the Guidelines, an assembly means the intentional and temporary presence of a number of individuals in a public place for a common expressive purpose. This definition recognizes that, although particular forms of assembly may raise specific regulatory issues, all types of peaceful assembly – both static and moving assemblies, as well as those that take place on publicly or privately owned premises or in enclosed structures – deserve protection.[12]

  1. See, for example, Alekseev v. Russian Federation, Human Rights Committee, Views of 25 October 2013, UN Doc. CCPR/C/109/D/1873/2009 and Galstyan v. Armenia, ECtHR, Judgment of 15 November 2007.
  2. See, for example, Galina Youbko v. Belarus, Human Rights Committee, Views of 24 April 2014, UN Doc. CCPR/C/110/D/1903/2009; Shmushkovych v. Ukraine, ECtHR, Judgment of 14 November 2013.
  3. See, for example, Christians against Racism and Fascism v. the United Kingdom, EComHR, Decision of 16 July 1980.
  4. See, for example, Kasparov v. Russia, ECtHR, Judgment of 11 October 2016.
  5. See, for example, Çiloğlu and others v. Turkey, ECtHR, Judgment of 6 March 2007.
  6. See, for example, Kudrevičius and Others v. Lithuania, ECtHR, Grand Chamber Judgment of 15 October 2015.
  7. Emin Huseynov v. Azerbaijan, ECtHR, Judgment of 7 May 2015.
  8. See Cissé v. France, ECtHR, Judgment of 9 April 2002.
  9. See, for example, Oya Ataman v. Turkey, ECtHR, Judgment of 5 December 2006.
  10. UN Human Rights Council, First Thematic Report of the Special Rapporteur on the rights to freedom of peaceful assembly and of association, Maina Kiai, UN Doc. A/HRC/20/27, 21 May 2012, para. 24; AComHPR, Report of the Study Group on Freedom of Association and Assembly in Africa, 2014, p. 25, para. 18.
  11. Budaházy v. Hungary, ECtHR, Judgment of 15 December 2015, para. 33. See also, among others, Djavit An v. Turkey, ECtHR, Judgment of 20 February 2003, para. 56 and Kudrevičius and Others v. Lithuania, ECtHR, Grand Chamber Judgment of 15 October 2015, para. 80.
  12. OSCE-ODIHR and Venice Commission, Guidelines on Freedom of Peaceful Assembly, 2nd edn, 2010, Guideline 1.2.