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Measures to allow freedom of expression and protect human rights in the context of peaceful protests Human Rights Committee Jonathan Wang Co-Chair
General Overview • Although the concept of peaceful protests has been present all throughout history, the concept of mass organized peaceful protests to achieve a common goal is relatively new. The ability to assemble and protest through a peaceful manner is an inherent human right. At times, however, governments and other third party members may stop these protests, usually using force. • Examples: • The 1919 Amritsar Massacre: As the Indians were fighting for independence, the British were distrustful of the Indians. As the Indians peacefully demanded for the release of two men, a British general came in and killed everyone at the site. A thousand people died with 1500 casualties. • The 1989 Tiananmen Square Massacre: After the death of Chinese leader Hu Yaobang, who supported Chinese democracy, there was a student led demonstration. The demonstration lasted for 7 weeks, until the government intervened. It ended with 200 deaths and 7,000 wounded people.
General Overview (cont.) • The motive behind governments/third party members in stopping these protests usually lie in the fact that they like the status quo. They are fearful that protests may change that, and thus, they are willing to use violence to stop it. • The reason why this issue is so hard to solve is because of National Sovereignty. Although nations who stop these peaceful protests will be criticized and pressured by other nations, each nation has the supreme power in its own lands. Thus, unless they feel the need to please other countries, they can get away with violently stopping these protests. There is no way to force a country to cooperate.
Definition of Key Terms • Human Rights • Defined in the Oxford dictionary as the set of entitlements held to every person • Freedom of Expression • Defined in the Oxford dictionary as the freedom to express one’s opinions without censorship, legal penalty, etc. • Defined in the UDHR as the right to hold opinions and to be able to seek, receive, and impart information.
Definition of Key Terms (cont.) • Right Peaceful Assembly • Interpreted by the United Nations as the right to organize or take part in peaceful meetings as a way to change your situation for the better. • National Sovereignty • Sovereignty is defined by the Oxford dictionary as supremacy in respect to power, domination, or rank. Thus, National Sovereignty is a country’s right to hold supreme power in its own territory.
Timeline 1919 – Amritsar massacre 1948 – Adoption of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights 1966 – Adoption of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights 1989 – Tiananmen Square Protest and Massacre 1996 - Johannesburg Principles on National Security, Freedom of Expression and Access to Information (Later endorsed by the aforementioned Special Rapporteur) 2008 – HRC Resolution 7/36
Major Parties involved • Article 19 – A non-governmental organization that works to grant everyone freedom of expression. It has been exceptionally successful in overcoming the issue of national sovereignty to solve the issue. For example, it has successfully challenged governments to stop its censorship. It has also established TheJohannesburg Principles, which was endorsed and promoted by the United Nations.
Major Parties involved (cont.) • UN Special Rapporteur on the Promotion and Protection of the right to freedom of opinion and expression – This UN reporter has been important for the UN in understanding and acting to solve the issue at hand. He holds the mandate to gather information and make recommendation based on the gathered information. Current UN special rapporteur, Mr. Frank La Rue, (Guatemala)
UN Involvement • United Nations’ General Assembly adopted the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights. These documents are mostly used to define essential terms, and to state that freedom of expression and freedom to peaceful assembly are rights that are to be recognized. These documents are effective in normalizing the recognition of these right, but they do not take actual action.
UN Involvement • The Human Rights Council adoption resolution 7/36, which gave mandate to the Special Rapporteur. As stated before, he has the mandate to gather information and make recommendations based off of the gathered information. Although he cannot force nations to cooperate, his opinions are taken seriously, and can really help in pressuring countries to act.
Possible Solutions • Education and Raising Awareness • Allow citizens to know that it is their right to freedom of expression and freedom to peaceful assembly. By making sure that people know this, countries may be forced to change. • Delegates are encouraged to work with UNESCO, which promotes the spread of communication and ideas
Possible Solutions (cont.) • Understand the Motives of any governments or third parties in stopping peaceful protests • To stop and future problems, the international community must realize why parties would want to stop the peaceful protests. Delegates are encouraged to make an interviewing mechanism for the international community to understand their motives.
Bibliography • "UNITED NATIONS HUMAN RIGHTS COUNCIL." About the Council. N.p., n.d. Web. 14 Feb. 2013. • "Freedom of Expression." Hrea.org. N.p., n.d. Web. 15 Feb. 2013. • "The Universal Declaration of Human Rights, UDHR, Declaration of Human Rights, Human Rights Declaration, Human Rights Charter, The Un and Human Rights." UN News Center. UN, n.d. Web. 14 Feb. 2013. • "International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights." International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights. N.p., n.d. Web. 14 Feb. 2013.