Human Rights Committee asserts right to peaceful assembly

On 23 July 2020, during its 129th session, the Human Rights Committee adopted its first-ever interpretation of Article 21 of the Covenant, which asserts the right to peaceful assembly.

The Human Rights Committee is the body of independent experts that monitors implementation of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights.

The Committee’s General Comment 37 is the culmination of two years of broad global consultations with civil society and experts who campaigned for such a document to be adopted, including the joint ITF-ITUC-PSI submission.

The General Comment is a valuable tool that not only asserts the right of peaceful assembly but also recognises that its full protection is only possible when other rights, notably freedom of association, are also protected.

Perhaps the most salient feature of the interpretation is the affirmation that peaceful assembly is also protected in the digital space and extends to remote or virtual participation. “It is particularly relevant during the Covid-19 pandemic, when so many peaceful gatherings have moved online,” said the Special Rapporteur on Rights to Freedom of Peaceful Assembly and of Association, Mr. Clément Voule.

The Covenant has been ratified by 173 countries and is also enforceable in many other overseas and non-self-governing territories.