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  • OEA/SER.L/V/II CIDH/RELE/INF.22/19

    September 2019 Original: Spanish

    Protest and Human Rights

    Standards on the rights involved in social protest and the obligations to guide the response of the State

    Office of the Special Rapporteur for Freedom of Expression of the Inter-American Commission

    on Human Rights

    Edison Lanza

    Special Rapporteur for Freedom of Expression

    2019

  • This report was supported, in part, through a grant from the open society foundations.

    OAS CATALOGING-IN-PUBLICATION DATA

    Inter-American Commission on Human Rights. Office of the Special Rapporteur

    for Freedom of Expression.

    Protesta y derechos humanos / Relatoría Especial para la Libertad de

    Expresión de la Comisión Interamericana de Derechos Humanos.

    v. ; cm. (OAS. Documentos oficiales ; OEA/Ser.L/V/II)

    ISBN 978-0-8270-6938-1

    1. Protest movements--America. 2. Human rights--America. I. Lanza, Edison. II.

    Title. III. Series.

    OEA/Ser.L/V/II CIDH/RELE/INF.22/19

  • INTER-AMERICAN COMMISSION ON HUMAN RIGHTS

    Members

    Margarette May Macaulay Esmeralda Arosemena de Troitiño Francisco José Eguiguren Praeli Luis Ernesto Vargas Silva Joel Hernández García Antonia Urrejola Flávia Piovesan

    Executive Secretary

    Paulo Abrão

    Assistant Executive Secretary for Monitoring, Promotion and

    Technical Cooperation

    Maria Claudia Pulido

    Chief of Staff of the Executive Secretary of the IACHR Marisol Blanchard Vera

  • TABLE OF CONTENTS

    CHAPTER I GUIDING PRINCIPLES ..................................................................................................................................................... 3

    CHAPTER II APPLICABLE LEGAL FRAMEWORK .......................................................................................................................... 9 1. RIGHTS INVOLVED ................................................................................................................................................................ 11 2. LEGITIMATE RESTRICTIONS TO THE RIGHTS INVOLVED IN DEMONSTRATIONS AND PROTESTS ................................ 14 3. PRINCIPLE OF NONDISCRIMINATION .................................................................................................................................. 21

    CHAPTER III OBLIGATION TO RESPECT RIGHTS ...................................................................................................................... 25

    1. THE RIGHT TO PARTICIPATE IN PROTEST WITHOUT PRIOR AUTHORIZATION .............................................................. 27 2. THE RIGHT TO CHOOSE THE CONTENT AND MESSAGES OF THE PROTEST ..................................................................... 29 3. THE RIGHT TO CHOOSE THE TIME AND PLACE OF THE PROTEST .................................................................................... 31 4. THE RIGHT TO CHOOSE THE MODE OF PROTEST; SCOPE OF THE PROVISION ON “PEACEFUL UNARMED EXERCISE”33

    CHAPTER IV OBLIGATION TO PROTECT AND FACILITATE ................................................................................................... 37

    1. USE OF FORCE IN THE CONTEXT OF PROTESTS .................................................................................................................. 41 2. MAXIMUM RESTRICTION ON FIREARMS ............................................................................................................................. 44

    a) Acquisition, use, and control of less lethal weapons ................................................................................... 46 b) Arrests ............................................................................................................................................................................ 48 c) Evictions ........................................................................................................................................................................ 51 d) Forced dispersal or break-up ............................................................................................................................... 54

    3. POLICE OPERATIONS, PROTOCOLS, AND INSTITUTIONAL STRUCTURE OF THE SECURITY FORCES AND EXCLUSION OF THE ARMED FORCES .......................................................................................................................................................................... 55 4. DIALOGUE AND NEGOTIATION BODIES ............................................................................................................................... 61 5. THE DUTY TO NOT CRIMINALIZE LEADERS AND PARTICIPANTS IN DEMONSTRATIONS AND PROTESTS ................... 62

    a) The creation of broad, vague, or ambiguous criminal offenses in violation of the principle of legality ........................................................................................................................................................................................ 64 b) Criminal definitions that violate inter-American standards by punishing activities of social protest ........................................................................................................................................................................................ 66 c) The formalistic and broad application of the criminal law to criminalize social protest ......... 67 d) Failure to observe fundamental guarantees ................................................................................................. 69 e) Prohibition of arbitrary arrests .......................................................................................................................... 71 f) Intelligence ................................................................................................................................................................... 73 g) Stigmatization and criminalization in the speech of political leaders............................................... 74

    CHAPTER V OBLIGATION TO GUARANTEE RIGHTS ................................................................................................................. 77

    1. THE DUTY TO INVESTIGATE, PROSECUTE, AND PUNISH .................................................................................................... 80

    a) Judicial investigation and penalties .................................................................................................................. 81 b) Administrative investigation and penalties ................................................................................................... 87

    2. RESPONSE FROM THE AUTHORITIES .................................................................................................................................. 90 3. MONITORING AND OBSERVATION OF PROTESTS............................................................................................................... 91

    CHAPTER VI PROTESTS AND THE INTERNET ........................................................................................................................... 93

    CHAPTER VII ACCESS TO INFORMATION .................................................................................................................................... 99

    CHAPTER VIII STATES OF EMERGENCY .................................................................................................................................... 105

    CHAPTER IX CONCLUSIONS AND RECOMMENDATIONS ...................................................................................................... 111

  • FOREWORD

  • Foreword | 1

    Inter-American Commission on Human Rights | IACHR

    FOREWORD

    Social protest is a core element for the existence and consolidation of democratic societies and is protected by a constellation of rights and freedoms, which the inter-American system guarantees both in the American Declaration of the Rights and Duties of Man and in the American Convention on Human Rights.

    Indeed, the rights to freedom of expression, peaceful assembly, and association guarantee and protect various forms—individual and collective—of publicly expressing opinions, dissenting, demanding compliance with social, cultural, and environmental rights, and affirming the identity of groups that have historically been discriminated against. Protest also plays a central role in defending democracy and human rights. According to the instruments of the inter-American system, the joint exercise of these fundamental rights makes the free exercise of democracy possible.

    The region, far from offering a picture of consensus regarding the protection of demonstrations and protests, has been—and continues to be—the scene of repression, dispersal, and limitation of the exercise of these rights in the public sphere, the product of a deep-rooted conception that considers citizen mobilization to be a form of disruption of the public order or, even worse, a threat to the stability of democratic institutions. Hence, a central objective of this report, prepared by the Inter-American Commission of Human Rights and its Office of the Special Rapporteur for Freedom of Expression, is to contribute to a better understanding of State obligations aimed at guaranteeing, protecting, and