General Comment on the right to peaceful assembly adopted

Published on 27 Jul 2020, 12:48 PM

Human Rights Committee | 129th session

The Human Rights Committee in session in March 2020, before the pandemic hit.

During the 129th session which was held virtually, the Human Rights Committee adopted the General Comment on Article 21 of the ICCPR, the right of peaceful assembly, after two readings and input from several stakeholders. 

"In many cases, the human rights project has really been taken forward through the use of peaceful assembly. It has become clear that it is a tool for those who do not have other forms of power."

- Christof Heyns, Rapporteur of the General Comment, on the reason why the Committee chose article 21

Half-day discussion on the right to peaceful assembly

The process started in March 2019, when the Committee held a discussion to launch the drafting process. The Committee listened to interventions from the Special Rapporteur on the rights to freedom of peaceful assembly and of association, NGOs and academics. The Committee also received 43 written submissions. 

First reading

In July 2019, the Committee started the first reading of a draft prepared by the Rapporteur, Mr. Heyns and taking into account the submissions that were sent to the Committee. The members discussed the content of the draft, as well as the order of the paragraphs and the consistent vocabulary used in the General Comment. 

Upon conclusion of the first reading, stakeholders including Member States, were invited to provide their comments. 

Comments from stakeholders

The Committee received more than 100 submissions: 21 from states, 11 from UN agencies, 12 NHRIs, 13 academic institutions, and 54 from civil society and others. On top of that, several regional consultations were organised in Geneva, Beirut, Mexico, Bangkok, Johannesburg, and others, in which Committee members took part.

The Committee also held two stakeholders’ meetings, one for member states and one for other stakeholders. Several member States took part in the meeting to express their concerns and give examples of situations in their country. In the meeting for other stakeholders, more than 15 NGOs expressed other concerns. Many of them focused on online or digital assemblies and non-discrimination. 

Second reading

The Human Rights Committee started the second reading of the draft General Comment in March 2020, but saw the session suspended due to the pandemic. But, the delay experienced was caught up quickly during the virtual July-session, and the General Comment was finalized earlier than expected. The final text is available here

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