Freedom of peaceful assembly provides, in the words of the UN Human Rights Council, “invaluable opportunities” for a range of political, literary, cultural, economic, social and religious activities.
International courts and mechanisms recognize that there is a particular risk of illegitimate restrictions when the right to assemble is used to express views critical of the authorities or other powerful interests. Restrictions in these areas are to be closely scrutinized.
The Human Rights Committee has stated, with regard to the ICCPR:
The IACHR and the Inter-American Court have
The ECtHR similarly underlined, in Sergey Kuznetsov v. Russia, that restrictions on assemblies on “political speech or serious matters of public interest” do a disservice to democracy and require strong reasons:
[T]he Court notes that the purpose of the picket was to attract public attention to the alleged dysfunction of the judicial system in the Sverdlovsk Region. This serious matter was undeniably part of a political debate on a matter of general and public concern. The Court reiterates in this connection that it has been its constant approach to require very strong reasons for justifying restrictions on political speech or serious matters of public interest such as corruption in the judiciary …
In Hyde Park and Others v. Moldova (Nos. 5 and 6), the ECtHR further stressed the need to be tolerant towards criticism of public figures, even if it is expressed in harsh terms:
- UN Human Rights Council, Resolution 15/21 on the rights to freedom of peaceful assembly and of association, UN Doc. A/HRC/RES/15/21, 6 October 2010. ↑
- Human Rights Committee, General Comment 34: Article 19 (Freedoms of expression and opinion), UN Doc. CCPR/C/GC/34 (2011), para. 34. ↑
- IACHR, Report on the Criminalization of the Work of Human Rights Defenders, OEA/Ser.L/V/II, Doc.49/15, 31 December 2015, para. 95. ↑
- Sergey Kuznetsov v. Russia, ECtHR, Judgment of 23 October 2008, paras. 45-47. ↑
- Hyde Park and Others v. Moldova (Nos. 5 and 6), ECtHR, Judgment of 14 September 2010, para. 43. ↑