We are living in a context where protest is criminalized; popular action and social organization are persecuted all over Europe, as well. This context is accompanied by securitization policies and rise of the far-right. As a result, a need has been risen to coordinate and share strategies to defense, to protect and to advocate the right to protest.
The right to protest is not a simple right. Even though it doesn’t exist as such in the main treaties, it combines or includes fundamental rights sharing the same goal: plurality in political participation, defense of rights and conquest of new liberties.
The scope of protest intertwines different rights to such level that its complicated to distinguish one from another. We are talking about the right to peaceful assembly, the right to freedom of expression, the right to freedom of association and the right to information. And we add, the right to psychophysical integrity.
For us, one way of defending the right to protest is to address the violations of rights that happen in its context. In this sense, Novact and Centre Iridia have initiated a European defense, advocacy and capacity building project under the name RIGHT2PROTEST, along with other European organizations.
EUROPEAN MEETING ‘THE VULNERABILITY OF THE RIGHT TO PROTEST’ : WHAT DID WE DO?
The 20th and 21st of November 2019 different organizations that work within the framework of human rights protection were gathered in Barcelona to debate about the vulnerability of the right to protest.
On the first day there was a closed activity with the aim of connecting and facilitating the exchange of tools between different organizations that work for the protection of human rights. It was led by, on one hand, Claudia Nadal, who presented the Guide of mechanisms for the protection, guarantee and advocacy of the right to protest in front of the European Union and the European Council. On the other hand, by Tor Hodenfield, who exposed tools and mechanisms of his organization such as the Civicus Monitor. It was highlighted how important it is to improve the transnational coordination mechanisms between organizations that defend human rights.
The event opened to the general public started
after lunch on the same day, and it included two panels. The first one,
directed by Cristina Mas, a journalist in diari Ara, brought us the insights of
the right to protest in Europe through the interventions of Giada Negri and
Orsolya Reich. It was discussed, amongst other things, the regression of rights
that is taking place in Europe and the importance of finding a common ground to
develop European strategies to protect protest.
The second panel looked forward to sharing defense and protection strategies in the face of the penal exceptionalism and the rise of the extreme right that is being experienced. Conducted by María San Martín, from Front Line Defenders, it focused on the importance of coordinating and finding alliances between entities, as well as on integrating with social movements and becoming a part of them. The importance of educating in human rights and in the right to protest was also discussed, as well as the problem of police violence and their surveillance and, in some countries, the harassment that human rights defenders are suffering. Monitoring situations of protest through social networks and through the media was also identified as an important asset in order to claim a response from the institutions. The need to adopt a psychosocial approach also stood out.
The following day the last panel took place, which was conducted by Marcel Mauri, vice-president and spokesman of Omnium Cultural. The panel was aimed at debating about the collective response to the restrictions and violations of rights that had been exposed throughout the seminar. The importance of recognizing the value of social movements, non-violence strategies and new ways of resistance and organization was pointed out. Disobedience in all spaces, including in the private scope, as well as the role of care were also debated. It was also marked out that, when thinking of extending the response to repression, convincing people that their problems are not individual but social or politic is essential. In this sense, the need to adapt the human rights language to the average person was stressed. Overall, the need to improve the coordination and connection between movements, the understanding of the problems that are being experienced as a whole and as the defense of rights against a system was also urged.
With this panel we dismissed the seminar which became not only a space for learning and exchanging experiences but also a gathering of people full of hope and eagerness to build a better world. Because of it, we wish it will be the first of many initiatives to come within an European strategy.
COMPARATIVE STUDY ON THE RIGHT TO PROTEST IN EUROPE
The study shows the situation of the Right to Protest in Europe through a comparative analysis of 5 European countries that, in recent years, have lived (and continue living) a concerning regression of the rights of peaceful assembly and demonstration and freedom of expression. Specifically, this study analyses the evolution of the right to protest in France, Germany, Hungary, Poland and Spain.
We would like to highlight the collaboration of Red Malla, Civic Space Watch, Civicus Monitor and Reporteros Sin Fronteras. Special thanks are also extended to the organisations working in the countries of study: European Civic Forum, Vox Public, European Center for Non-Profit Law, Helsinki Foundation for Human Rights and Hungarian Civil Liberties Union.
RIGHT TO PROTEST GUIDE: MECHANISMS OF PROTECTION, GUARANTEE AND ADVOCACY TO THE EUROPEAN UNION AND THE COUNCIL OF EUROPE
This guide is aimed at being a useful tool for organisations, movements and individuals who carry out their work or fight for the defense of rights in the European territory, especially for those in line with the defense, protection and guarantee of the right to protest. The guide shows the European protection and defense mechanisms and analyzes rights and restrictions to these rights, offering explanations on the steps and formal paths to report violations.
The RIGHT2PROTEST is a project that is born as a result of the observation of the context of recession regarding the protection of the right to protest in several European countries. The project aims to map the situation of the mentioned right in five countries (Spain, Hungary, France, Poland and Germany), as well as to offer a practical guide of mechanisms that can be used in case that this right were to be violated.
The project looks forward to strengthening the coordination between organisations in the participating countries, and it is as well aimed at political advocacy both at a local and at a European level in order to strengthen the protection of the right to protest and of human rights defenders in contexts of protest.