Council report
June 2014

Threats against groups most at risk when exercising assembly and association rights

Backlash from the Arab Spring of early 2011 continues to be felt globally, with space for civil society actors increasingly shrinking. In recent years many States have responded to people’s assertions of peaceful dissent by violently clamping down on peaceful protests and other forms of assembly, unduly restricting the ability of associations to form and operate, and physically assaulting civil society actors.

While those actions have negatively affected all who exercise their rights to peacefully assemble and freely associate, certain groups are at particular risk of having their space all but vanish. In this report, UN Special Rapporteur Maina Kiai focuses on the challenges facing groups that are often relegated to the margins of society, both in their daily lives and in the exercise of their rights to freedom of peaceful assembly and of association. He hopes to cast the spotlight on the ways in which the denial of the rights to freedom of peaceful assembly and of association leads to the marginalization of those groups and how marginalization exacerbates their inability to effectively exercise their rights.

Some of the groups that are considered in the present report to be most at risk are persons with disabilities; youth, including children; women; lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and intersex (LGBTI) people; members of minority groups; indigenous peoples; internally displaced persons; and non-nationals, including refugees, asylum seekers and migrant workers.

For the purposes of the report, the groups most at risk will also include groups and individuals who are targeted not because of their identity, but because they actively lobby for the rights of those most at risk of discrimination and retribution. Human rights defenders, including journalists, trade unionists and environmental activists, among others, face considerable opposition, harassment, stigmatization and even physical attacks from State and non-State actors in many countries.

The report’s document number is A/HRC/26/29. Kiai presented this report to the UN Human Rights Council in Geneva on June 10, 2014.