Tag - United States ( 9 )

News | UN rights experts urge lawmakers to stop “alarming” trend to curb freedom of assembly in the US

Mar 30 2017

GENEVA – Two UN human rights experts are calling on lawmakers in the United States to stop the “alarming” trend of “undemocratic” anti-protest bills designed to criminalize or impede the rights to freedom of peaceful assembly and expression. Since the Presidential Elections in November, lawmakers in no fewer than nineteen states have introduced legislation restricting assembly rights by various degrees. The moves come just as the United States is seeing some of the largest and most frequent protests in its history. “Since January 2017, a number of undemocratic bills have been proposed in state legislatures with the purpose or effect of criminalizing peaceful protests,” the experts said. “The bills, if enacted into law, would severely infringe upon the exercise of the rights to freedom of expression and freedom of peaceful assembly in ways that are incompatible with US obligations under international human rights law and with First Amendment protections. The trend also threatens to jeopardize one of the United States’ constitutional pillars: free speech.” Concerns about the implication of these bills were recently raised by the experts in a recent communication sent to the US authorities on 27 March 2017. The bills come amid a wave of US protests over the past few years... Continue reading →

News | Special Rapporteur Maina Kiai’s Testimony to the Tom Lantos Human Rights Commission – March 21, 2017

Mar 21 2017

Hearing theme: “Closing civic space and the threat to the future of global democracy” Date: Tuesday, March 21, 2017 Location: Washington, DC, United States of America The Honorable Co-chairs of the Tom Lantos Human Rights Commission of the US Congress, Ladies and Gentlemen: Thank you for inviting me to address this body on the subject of “closing space for civil society” – in other words, the increasingly restrictive and hostile environment that civil society faces throughout the world. I have served as the United Nations Special Rapporteur on the rights to freedom of peaceful assembly and of association since May 2011, with a mandate to examine, monitor and publicly report on these rights across the world. I have been reflecting a great deal on how much the world has changed since the UN Human Rights Council created my mandate in October 2010, which was sponsored by the US. Back then, the rights to freedom of peaceful assembly and of association were sometimes overlooked in the pantheon of rights, and the phrase “closing space for civil society” was way less common. Since then, however, these rights have underpinned some of the most momentous political events of the 21st century: The Arab Awakenings in the Middle East and North Africa; mass protests that forced out... Continue reading →

News | Native Americans facing excessive force in North Dakota pipeline protests – UN expert

Nov 15 2016

GENEVA – A United Nations human rights expert has accused US security forces of using excessive force against protesters trying to stop an oil pipeline project which runs through land sacred to indigenous people. Law enforcement officials, private security firms and the North Dakota National Guard have used unjustified force to deal with opponents of the Dakota Access pipeline, according to Maina Kiai, the UN Special Rapporteur on the rights to freedom of peaceful assembly and association. Some of the 400 people held during the demonstrations had suffered “inhuman and degrading conditions in detention,” Mr. Kiai added. Protesters say they have faced rubber bullets, teargas, mace, compression grenades and bean-bag rounds while expressing concerns over environmental impact and trying to protect burial grounds and other sacred sites of the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe. “Tensions have escalated in the past two weeks, with local security forces employing an increasingly militarized response to protests and forcibly moving encampments located near the construction site,” the rights expert said. “This is a troubling response to people who are taking action to protect natural resources and ancestral territory in the face of profit-seeking activity,” he noted. “The excessive use of State... Continue reading →

News | UN rights experts urge U.S. court to hear activist’s claims in surveillance case against Ethiopia

Nov 03 2016

IRVINE/NAIROBI/PARIS – A group of United Nations human rights experts is urging a U.S. appeals court to grant an Ethiopian American activist the right to sue the Government of Ethiopia for secretly monitoring his online activity for almost five months. The Court’s decision on whether it will hear the activist’s claims will have major repercussions for the ability of individuals to seek redress for human rights violations in domestic courts. Amici Curiae Brief for Appellant Kidane Motion for Leave to File Amici Curiae Brief The activist, who uses the pseudonym “Kidane” in order to protect himself and his family, was born in Ethiopia and granted asylum in the United States in the early 1990s. He currently lives in Maryland and is now an American citizen, but he continues to support members of Ethiopia’s democratic opposition movement. In 2012, Ethiopia reportedly infected Kidane’s computer with malware and, from October 2012 to March 2013, secretly intercepted and recorded his online activities, including his Skype calls, e-mails and web-browsing history. These allegations are part of broader trend of digital attacks targeting human rights defenders, activists, journalists and other vulnerable groups, both in Ethiopia and abroad. The group of experts – UN Special Rapporteurs David... Continue reading →

News | The Assembly and Association Briefing, Vol. 3, No. 5 (Issue 22) – July-August 2016

Aug 23 2016

Issue No. 22 of the Assembly and Association Briefing, the newsletter of Maina Kiai, UN Special Rapporteur on the rights to freedom of peaceful assembly and of association. In this issue: • USA visit: Inequality casts dark shadow over assembly and association rights • UN experts urge Turkey to adhere to its human rights obligations even in time of declared emergency • Bill threatens expressive freedom in Maldives, expert warns • Israel: UN experts caution against NGO law • Rights experts condemn killing of Cambodian political analyst Kem Ley • “End police impunity” – alarm over pattern of extrajudicial killings in Kenya • Bahrain urged to end ‘systematic’ persecution of Shia • Expert urges Thailand to ensure free debate ahead of constitutional referendum • China: stop ill-treatment of Guo Feixiong • Assembly & association rights: By the numbers • Special Rapporteur news in brief: July-August 2016 • World briefing: Assembly & association rights in the news For a link to the newsletter, click on the image at right or click here (3.4MB file). To subscribe to our newsletter, please drop us a line at info@freeassembly.net with the subject line “subscribe to newsletter.” For other recent newsletters, see the links... Continue reading →

Report | Country visit: United States of America (A/HRC/35/28/Add.2 – coming June 2017)

Jul 12 2017

Special Rapporteur Maina Kiai undertook an official mission to the United States of America July 11-27, 2017. The visit was carried out pursuant to his mandate to assess the situation of freedoms of peaceful assembly and association in the country. At a press conference at the end of his visit on July 27, 2016, the Special Rapporteur called the United States "a nation of struggle and resilience," but noted that the country was currently "struggling to live up to its ideals on a number of important issues." The most critical of these issues, he said, were racial, social and economic inequality. Although the focus of his mission was not race or discrimination, the Special Rapporteur said that it was impossible to discuss assembly and association rights without issues of racism pervading the discussions. “Racism and the exclusion, persecution and marginalization that come with it, affect the enabling environment for the exercise of association and assembly rights,” Kiai said, noting that understanding its context means looking back at 400 years of slavery and post-Civil War Jim Crow laws which “enforced segregation and marginalized the African-American community to a life of misery, poverty and persecution.” In more recent times, the Special Rapporteur noted, “old philosophies of... Continue reading →

News | USA: Inequality casts dark shadow over exercise of assembly and association rights, UN expert says

Jul 28 2016

GENEVA / WASHINGTON, DC – The United States of America is struggling to live up to its ideals in the area of racial, social and economic inequality, which is having a negative impact upon the exercise of the rights to freedom of peaceful assembly and of association, United Nations human rights expert Maina Kiai said at the end of his first official fact-finding mission to the country. The UN Special Rapporteur on the rights to freedom of peaceful assembly and of association singled out race as a particularly pernicious issue. He emphasised that while his mandate does not cover racial discrimination, it was impossible carry out his mission “without issues of racism pervading the discussions.” “Racism and the exclusion, persecution and marginalization that come with it, affect the enabling environment for the exercise of association and assembly rights,” Mr. Kiai said, noting that understanding its context means looking back at 400 years of slavery and post-Civil War Jim Crow laws which “enforced segregation and marginalized the African-American community to a life of misery, poverty and persecution.” In more recent times, the Special Rapporteur noted, “old philosophies of exclusion and discrimination were reborn, cloaked in new and euphemistic terms,” such as the so-called “War on... Continue reading →

Report | United States of America communications: May 1, 2011 to February 28, 2016

Feb 28 2016

This page summarizes cases raised with the United States of America by the Special Rapporteur between May 1, 2011, (when the Special Rapporteur took up his functions) and February 28, 2016 (the date of the last public release of communications). Communications are released to the public once per year. This page also contains observations on these communications and on responses received from the United States. Communications and observations are divided into sections based upon which observation report they originally appeared. Each communication is referenced as urgent appeal (UA), allegation letter (AL), joint urgent appeal (JUA) and joint allegation letter (JAL) - the hyperlinks lead to these documents. This is followed by the date the communication was issued, as well as the case number and the State reply (also hyperlinked if available). Summaries and communications are published only in the language of submission (in the case of the United States, English). First Report (May 1, 2011 to March 15, 2012) Joint urgent appeal, 21/12/2011. Case no. USA 23/2011. State Reply: None to date. Alleged excessive use of force against peaceful protesters who were assembled in various cities throughout the United States of America. Joint urgent appeal, 23/02/2012. Case no. USA 24/2011. State Reply:... Continue reading →

News | FOAA News Roundup: May 29, 2014

May 29 2014

• Civil society forms “watch committee” in Rakhine State, Myanmar, to “see whether their aid goes to the right places.” (In March, mobs attacked UN and aid group offices in Rakhine, forcing many INGOs to flee; they were accused of favoring the Rohingya, a Muslim minority group). (Myanmar Times) • The EU is pumping €674K into civil society into Armenian civil society focused on healthcare, agriculture and social security. (ARKA News Agency) • In Cambodia, civil society condemns the (currently one-party) National Assembly’s passage of three “flawed judicial reform bills” (the opposition party continues its 10-month boycott of parliament due to allegedly flawed elections last summer). (Asian Human Rights Commission) Special Rapporteur Surya Subedi has chimed in as well. • The .ngo website suffix comes online in October 2014. (Nonprofit Quarterly) More here. • Is Israel jumping on the “foreign agent” NGO law bandwagon? Proposed bill “directed at left-leaning groups.” (Haaretz) • In Brazil, Rival World Cup protest songs jostle for football fans’ attention. “Rival tunes, anti-FIFA raps and instrumental lamentations challenging the poorly received official theme,” writes Jonathan Watts. (The Guardian) • Violinists’ protest video goes viral after they... Continue reading →