Geneva: July 5, 2023
Several human rights organizations, including the Committee for Justice (CFJ), have called on United Nations mechanisms to intervene to halt grave violations of the right to peaceful assembly in Lebanon, Tunisia, Egypt, and Saudi Arabia. They emphasized the need to take all necessary measures to address these violations and ensure that these countries respect and protect the fundamental human right to peaceful assembly.
In a letter addressed to the UN Special Rapporteur on the right to peaceful assembly and association, Clément Nyaletsossi Voule, the organizations highlighted the repeated suppression of peaceful protests and gatherings by the authorities in Egypt, which often led to the arrest, detention, and torture of activists and demonstrators. They also mentioned the legislation enacted by the authorities that severely restricts the right to peaceful assembly and expression, effectively criminalizing all forms of protest.
Regarding Saudi Arabia, the organizations affirmed that the Saudi authorities consider participating in peaceful protests and gatherings a crime, prohibiting any form of peaceful assembly. They continue to issue and implement death sentences against individuals accused of participating in past protests and gatherings.
The organizations pointed out that despite issuing the associations and civil institutions system in Saudi Arabia, authorities still refuse to license any human rights organization, between them women rights organizations while it arrests and prosecutes the majority of human rights defenders who sought to establish associations.
In Lebanon, the organizations stated that security forces have used excessive force to suppress protesters during peaceful demonstrations. The recent crackdown on protests in Beirut and Tripoli is a clear example of the government’s failure to respect the right to peaceful assembly. Lebanese security forces have used tear gas, rubber bullets, and live ammunition to disperse protesters, resulting in the death of several individuals and the injury of many others. Additionally, On June 24, 2022, Interior Minister Bassam al-Mawlawi sent an urgent letter to the directorates of Internal Security and General Security instructing them to ban any gatherings aimed at “promoting sexual perversion”.
In Tunisia, the organizations highlighted that the authorities have also resorted to violence and repression to silence peaceful assembly. Security forces have used tear gas and rubber bullets to disperse demonstrations and have arrested and detained protesters, including many minors, without due process. They also harassed journalists to force them to hand over footage. Moreover, the government has announced a new law that would severely restrict the right to peaceful assembly and expression.
In conclusion, the organizations emphasized that these violations of the right to peaceful assembly are unacceptable and must be addressed promptly. They called on the UN Special Rapporteur to monitor these developments and demand full accountability for human rights violations related to protests. This includes conducting comprehensive, independent, and transparent investigations into these violations and providing victims with access to effective remedies and compensation in Lebanon, Tunisia, Egypt, and Saudi Arabia. The organizations also called for comprehensive investigations into these violations, public condemnation of the violations, and collaboration with governments to establish measures that protect the right to peaceful assembly and respect and safeguard this fundamental human right.