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14. The duty to effectively investigate violations of the right to freedom of peaceful assembly

The occurrence of human rights violations during assemblies triggers a duty on the part of the authorities to investigate. The joint report on the proper management of assemblies states in this regard:

States must investigate any allegations of violations in the context of assemblies promptly and effectively through bodies that are independent and impartial.[1]

This duty notably comes into play when deaths or injuries occur. The UN Human Rights Council has urged States to:

investigate any death or injury committed during protests, including those resulting from the discharge of firearms or the use of non-lethal weapons by law enforcement officials.[2]

The legal obligation to investigate deaths, injuries and inhuman or degrading treatment occurring in connection with assemblies is confirmed by the jurisprudence of a range of international courts and mechanisms.[3] The ECtHR has held in this regard:

The general legal prohibition of arbitrary killing and torture and inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment by agents of the State would be ineffective in practice if there existed no procedure either for reviewing the lawfulness of the use of lethal force by State authorities, or for investigating arbitrary killings and allegations of ill-treatment of persons held by them.

Thus, having regard to the general duty on the State under Article 1 of the Convention to “secure to everyone within their jurisdiction the rights and freedoms defined in [the] Convention”, the provisions of Articles 2 and 3 require by implication that there should be some form of effective official investigation, both when individuals have been killed as a result of the use of force by, inter alia, agents of the State … and where an individual makes a credible assertion that he has suffered treatment infringing Article 3 of the Convention …[4]

The duty to investigate death or ill-treatment applies regardless of whether private actors or government agents are responsible.[5] It is important to note that the awarding of damages cannot come in the place of the duty to investigate.[6] This duty can generally only be satisfied through criminal law.[7]

The ECtHR has underlined that the duty to investigate applies to any demonstration, “however illegal it may have been.”[8]


  1. UN Human Rights Council, Joint report of the Special Rapporteur on the rights to freedom of peaceful assembly and of association and the Special Rapporteur on extrajudicial, summary or arbitrary executions on the proper management of assemblies, UN Doc. A/HRC/31/66, 4 February 2016, para. 90.
  2. UN Human Rights Council, The promotion and protection of human rights in the context of peaceful protests, UN Doc. A/HRC/RES/22/10, adopted on 9 April 2013, para. 9.
  3. See, for instance, Florentina Olmedo v. Paraguay, Human Rights Committee, Views of 22 March 2012, UN Doc. CCPR/C/104/D/1828/2008CCPR/C/104/D/1828/2008, para. 7.5; Ernesto Benitez Gamarra v. Paraguay, Human Rights Committee, Views of 22 March 2012, UN Doc. CCPR/C/104/D/1829/2008, para. 7.5; Egyptian Initiative for Personal Rights and INTERIGHTS v. Egypt, AComHPR, Decision of 12 October 2013, para. 208; Velásquez-Rodriguez v. Honduras, IACtHR, Judgment of 21 July 1989, para. 174; Mocanu and Others v. Romania, ECtHR, Judgment of 17 September 2014, para. 316-317.
  4. Mocanu and Others v. Romania, ECtHR, Judgment of 17 September 2014, para. 316-317 (references omitted); see also, among others, McCann and Others v. The United Kingdom, ECtHR, Judgment of 27 September 1995, para. 161; Labita v. Italy, ECtHR, Judgment of 6 April 2000, para. 131.
  5. Egyptian Initiative for Personal Rights and INTERIGHTS v. Egypt, AComHPR, Decision of 12 October 2013, paras. 156-157; Velásquez-Rodriguez v. Honduras, IACtHR, Judgment of 21 July 1989, paras. 172 and 176; M.C. and A.C. v. Romania, ECtHR, Judgment of 12 July 2016, paras. 110-111; Rod v Croatia, ECtHR, Decision of 18 September 2008, para. 1.
  6. See Basic Principles on the Use of Force and Firearms by Law Enforcement Officials (adopted at the Eighth United Nations Congress on the Prevention of Crime and the Treatment of Offenders, Havana, 27 August to 7 September 1990), UN Doc. A/CONF.144/28/Rev.1 at 112, Principle 7; Tahirova v. Azerbaijan, ECtHR, Judgment of 3 October 2013, para. 53.
  7. See Basic Principles on the Use of Force and Firearms by Law Enforcement Officials (adopted at the Eighth United Nations Congress on the Prevention of Crime and the Treatment of Offenders, Havana, 27 August to 7 September 1990), UN Doc. A/CONF.144/28/Rev.1 at 112, Principle 7; Bautista de Arellana v. Colombia, Human Rights Committee, Views of 27 October 1995, UN Doc. CCPR/C/55/D/563/1993, para. 8.2; IACHR, Annual Report 2015, March 17, 2016, Chapter IV.A, para. 228; Jeronovičs v. Latvia, ECtHR, Grand Chamber Judgment of 5 July 2016, paras. 76 and 104-105.
  8. Güleç v. Turkey, ECtHR, Judgment of 27 July 1998, para. 81.
  9. Ergi v. Turkey, ECtHR, Judgment of 28 July 1998, para. 82. See also Miguel Castro v. Peru, IACHR, Judgment of 25 November 2006, para. 256.
  10. Solomou and Others v. Turkey, ECtHR, Judgment of 24 June 2008, para. 80.
  11. Dilek Aslan v. Turkey, ECtHR, Judgment of 20 October 2015, para. 53 (references omitted); See also Khashiyev and Akayeva v. Russia, ECtHR, Judgment of 24 February 2005, para. 177.
  12. Vuolanne v. Finland, Human Rights Committee, Views of 7 April 1989, UN Doc. CCPR/C/35/D/265/1987, para. 9.2; Ireland v. the United Kingdom, ECtHR, Judgment of 18 January 1978, para. 162.
  13. R.B. v. Hungary, ECtHR, Judgment of 12 April 2016, paras. 43-45.
  14. See, for example, Egyptian Initiative for Personal Rights and INTERIGHTS v. Egypt, AComHPR, Decision of 12 October 2013, para. 230; Miguel Castro v. Peru, IACtHR, Judgment of 25 November 2006, para. 256; Korobov and Others v. Estonia, ECtHR, Judgment of 28 March 2013, para. 113.
  15. See, for example, Landaeta Mejías Brothers et al v. Venezuela, IACtHR, Judgment of 27 August 2014, para. 143; Nadege Dorzema et al. v. Dominican Republic, IACtHR, Judgment of 24 October 2012, para. 100; McKerr v. The United Kingdom, ECtHR, Judgement of 4 May 2001, para. 121; Khashiyev and Akayeva v. Russia, ECtHR, Judgment of 24 February 2005, para. 177.
  16. Miguel Castro v. Peru, IACHR, Judgment of 25 November 2006, para. 382.
  17. Solomou and Others v. Turkey, ECtHR, Judgment of 24 June 2008, para. 81.
  18. Giuliani and Gaggio v. Italy, ECtHR, Grand Chamber Judgment of 24 March 2011, para. 302.
  19. See, among others, M.C. and A.C. v. Romania, ECtHR, Judgment of 12 July 2016, para.111; Khashiyev and Akayeva v. Russia, ECtHR, Judgment of 24 February 2005, para 154; Solomou and Others v. Turkey, ECtHR, Judgment of 24 June 2008, para. 81; Giuliani and Gaggio v. Italy, ECtHR, Grand Chamber Judgment of 24 March 2011, para. 301; Miguel Castro v. Peru, IACHR, Judgment of 25 November 2006, para.255.
  20. IACHR, Annual Report 2015, March 17, 2016, Chapter IV.A, para. 230.
  21. IACHR, Annual Report 2015, March 17, 2016, Chapter IV.A, para. 234. See also Myrna Mack Chang v. Argentina, IACtHR, Judgment of 25 November 2003, para. 166; Case of the “Mapiripán Massacre” v. Colombia, IACtHR, Judgment of 15 September 2005, para. 227.
  22. Solomou and Others v. Turkey, ECtHR, Judgment of 24 June 2008, para. 81.
  23. See Dilek Aslan v. Turkey, ECtHR, Judgment of 20 October 2015, para. 57 referring to the UN Manual on the Effective Investigation and Documentation of Torture and other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment (the “Istanbul Protocol”).
  24. M.C. and A.C. v. Romania, ECtHR, Judgment of 12 July 2016, para.113 (references omitted).
  25. See among others, Solomou and Others v. Turkey, ECtHR, Judgment of 24 June 2008, para. 82; Pastor and Ticlete v. Romania, ECtHR, Judgment of 19 April 2011, paras. 69-71; M.C. and A.C. v. Romania, ECtHR, Judgment of 12 July 2016, paras.111-112; see also General Comment No. 20 of the Human Rights Committee in Compilation of General Comments and General Recommendations adopted by Human Rights Treaty Bodies, UN Doc. HRI/GEN/1/Rev.1, p.30, para 14.
  26. See, for example, Dilek Aslan v. Turkey, ECtHR, Judgment of 20 October 2015, paras. 56 and 58.
  27. Pastor and Ticlete v. Romania, ECtHR, Judgment of 19 April 2011, paras. 76 and 77-79.
  28. See, for example, , Florentina Olmedo v. Paraguay, Human Rights Committee, Views of 22 March 2012, UN Doc. CCPR/C/104/D/1828/2008CCPR/C/104/D/1828/2008, para. 7.5 (investigation not completed after almost 9 years); Pastor and Ticlete v. Romania (16 years) or Mocanu and Others v. Romania (23 years).
  29. See, among others, Mocanu and Others v. Romania, ECtHR, Judgment of 17 September 2014, para. 346; Association “21 December 1989” and Others v. Romania, ECtHR, Judgment of 24 May 2011, para. 144.
  30. Mocanu and Others v. Romania, ECtHR, Judgment of 17 September 2014, para. 338.
  31. Mocanu and Others v. Romania, ECtHR, Judgment of 17 September 2014, para.326.
  32. Giuliani and Gaggio v. Italy, ECtHR, Grand Chamber Judgment of 24 March 2011, para. 300; see also Solomou and Others v. Turkey, ECtHR, Judgment of 24 June 2008, para.81.
  33. Nadege Dorzema et al. v. Dominican Republic, IACtHR, Judgment of 24 October 2012, para. 189; see also 29 and 247.
  34. Pastor and Ticlete v. Romania, ECtHR, Judgment of 19 April 2011, para. 74; Mocanu and Others v. Romania, ECtHR, Judgment of 17 September 2014, paras. 320 and 333.
  35. Giuliani and Gaggio v. Italy, ECtHR, Grand Chamber Judgment of 24 March 2011, para. 324.
  36. McKerr v. The United Kingdom, ECtHR, Judgement of 4 May 2001, paras. 128 and 157.
  37. UN Manual on the Effective Investigation and Documentation of Torture and other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment, para. 80.
  38. El-Masri v. the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, ECtHR, Grand Chamber ruling of 13 December 2012, para. 185.
  39. Giuliani and Gaggio v. Italy, ECtHR, Grand Chamber Judgment of 24 March 2011, para. 303.
  40. Giuliani and Gaggio v. Italy, ECtHR, Grand Chamber Judgment of 24 March 2011, para. 303.
  41. Giuliani and Gaggio v. Italy, ECtHR, Grand Chamber Judgment of 24 March 2011, para. 304.
  42. Jeronovičs v. Latvia, ECtHR, Grand Chamber Judgment of 5 July 2016, paras. 105-106.
  43. IACHR, Annual Report 2015, March 17, 2016, Chapter IV.A, para. 235.
  44. Basic Principles on the Use of Force and Firearms by Law Enforcement Officials (adopted at the Eighth United Nations Congress on the Prevention of Crime and the Treatment of Offenders, Havana, 27 August to 7 September 1990), UN Doc. A/CONF.144/28/Rev.1 at 112, Principle 24; UN Human Rights Council, Joint report of the Special Rapporteur on the rights to freedom of peaceful assembly and of association and the Special Rapporteur on extrajudicial, summary or arbitrary executions on the proper management of assemblies, UN Doc. A/HRC/31/66, 4 February 2016, para. 91; IACHR, Annual Report 2015, March 17, 2016, Chapter IV.A, para. 233.
  45. İzci v. Turkey, ECtHR, Judgment of 23 July 2013, para. 74. See also Yaman v. Turkey, ECtHR, Judgment of 2 November 2004, para. 55.