Two thousand fourteen proved to be a year of monumental developments in the area of assembly and association rights, though the direction of change was rarely positive.
Burkina Faso, Cambodia, Thailand, Ukraine and Venezuela all witnessed massive political and social upheaval spurred by popular protests – but in some instances, these movements were followed by increased restrictions on assembly and association rights. Civil society organizations across the world continued to face a wave of restrictive new laws, often targeting disfavored groups specifically or civil society generally. In Nigeria, for example, new legislation banned all associations dealing with LGBTI issues, while Egypt introduced a new law to give the government veto power over civil society’s activities.
Meanwhile, attacks and harassment of human rights defenders engaged in civil society work continued virtually unchecked.
Chinese human rights defender Cao Shunli died in custody after being arrested on her way to the UN Human Rights Council. A host of Azerbaijani activists were imprisoned for their human rights work, including 2014 Vaclav Havel award winner Mr. Anar Mammadli. And in Bahrain, Nabeel Rajab found himself again detained over his online criticism of the government, just months after being released from a two-year prison sentence for a similar offense.
There were a few positive developments, such as Tunisia’s progress in transitioning from its 2011 popular revolution and a progressive ruling on the rights of LGBTI associations in Botswana. The year also produced countless stories demonstrating the remarkable courage of activists worldwide who stood up for their assembly and association rights.
But it was clear by the end of 2014 that their fight is not over. The world continues to need their courage: Civic space is shrinking everywhere, with no apparent end to the trend in sight.
This report marks Special Rapporteur Maina Kiai’s first “yearbook” of assembly and association rights – a year-end summary of the major developments of 2014, including important news events and the key activities of his mandate.
Funding for the production of this report was provided by the Norwegian Ministry of Foreign Affairs. It is not published by the United Nations, and its content does not reflect the official position of the United Nations.