UN Human Rights Council Adopts Resolution to Protect Journalists Covering Protests

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The United Nations Human Rights Council last month adopted a resolution aimed at protecting journalists while covering peaceful protests.

The resolution was submitted at the 25th session of Council by Turkey, Costa Rica and Switzerland. In the resolution, the Council urged States to pay close attention to journalists’ safety and vulnerability while covering peaceful protests, and to ensure that the resolution is effective immediately.

The resolution stressed the important role that journalists play at demonstrations in providing people with coverage, essential information and documenting human rights violations or abuses committed in the context of peaceful protests.

The Council reaffirmed the purposes and principles of the United Nations Charter and the Universal Declaration of Human Rights while also recalling relevant international human rights treaties such as the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, and relevant regional human rights instruments.

It stressed the fact that everyone must be able to express their grievances or aspirations in a peaceful manner, including through public protests without fear of reprisals or of being intimidated, harassed, injured, sexually assaulted, beaten, arbitrarily arrested and detained, tortured, killed or subjected to enforced disappearance.

The Council said it was deeply concerned about extrajudicial, summary or arbitrary executions, torture and other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment of persons exercising their rights to freedom of peaceful assembly, of expression and of association in all regions of the world,

It expressed concerns about the number of attacks targeting human rights defenders and journalists in the context of peaceful protests, the increasing criminalization, in all parts of the world, of individuals and groups organizing or taking part in peaceful protests, while also stressing that peaceful protests should not be viewed as a threat, and therefore encouraged all states to engage in an open, inclusive and meaningful dialogue when dealing with peaceful protests and their causes.

The Council urged States to ensure that national mechanisms, based on law and conformity with their international human rights obligations and commitments, can deliver accountability for human rights violations and abuses, and provide victims with access to a remedy and redress, including in the context of peaceful protests.

It requested the High Commissioner to prepare, from within existing resources, guidelines for facilitating and protecting peaceful protests based on good practices, with a view to assisting States in promoting and protecting human rights in the context of peaceful protests, in collaboration with the Special Rapporteur on the rights to peaceful assembly and of association, the Special Rapporteur on extrajudicial, summary or arbitrary executions and other relevant special procedures, and in consultation with States and other relevant stakeholders, and to present those guidelines to the Human Rights Council at its thirty-first session.

The Council called upon States, as a matter of priority, to ensure that their domestic legislation and procedures are consistent with their international obligations and commitments in relation to the use of force and are effectively implemented by officials exercising law enforcement duties, particularly the applicable principles of law enforcement, such as the principles of necessity and proportionality, bearing in mind that lethal force may only be used to protect against an imminent threat to life and that it may not be used merely to disperse a gathering.