France & Sweden : Popular protest and challenges to freedom of assembly, media and speech

HRE Council of Europe, Parliamentary Assembly, Resolution 1947 (2013)1 Provisional version

1. Popular protest has erupted in many European (and non-European) countries recently. Demonstrations often occur in an unregulated manner, its participants co-ordinating with one another through social media. The right of individuals to demonstrate against their democratically elected governments is as legitimate as is the right of such governments not to change their policies in the face of protests.

2. Such demonstrations have taken place in many cities and countries in Europe in the last year. In all cases, the protests started peacefully, even if in some cases small minorities did engage in violent activity. The response by the public authorities and the action taken by law-enforcement bodies were at times disproportionate.

3. Examples of peaceful demonstrations which developed into violent clashes with the police in the last few months in Europe include:
3.1. several demonstrations against same-sex marriage staged in Paris between 24 March and 27 May 2013 (“Manif pour tous”), involving more than 2 million people, triggering the intervention of lawenforcement forces including the use of tear gas on peaceful demonstrators. Four persons were injured and several hundred were arrested;
3.2. riots which took place in the suburbs of Stockholm from 20 to 24 May 2013 where people demonstrated against the killing of an immigrant by the police and against immigration and integration policies in general. No injuries were reported and the police arrested 29 people ;


The Assembly urges the Council of Europe member States, where appropriate, to take the necessary measures to bring their legislation into line with Council of Europe standards and the case law
of the European Court of Human Rights, including as regards freedom of expression, of the media and of assembly, and invites them to:
9.1. guarantee freedom of assembly and demonstration in accordance with the case law of the European Court of Human Rights and ensure that this freedom can be exercised in practice;
9.2. duly investigate the use of excessive or disproportionate force by members of the lawenforcement forces and impose sanctions on those responsible;
9.3. reinforce human rights training for members of the security forces, and also for judges and prosecutors, in partnership with the Council of Europe;
9.4. draw up clear instructions concerning the use of tear gas (pepper spray) and prohibit its use in confined spaces;
9.5. ensure media freedom, put an end to harassment and arrests of journalists and the searches of media premises and refrain from imposing sanctions on media outlets covering popular protests, in line also with Resolution 1920 (2013) on the state of media freedom in Europe;
9.6. reform the Criminal Code and the Code of Criminal Procedure, as well as anti-terrorism legislation and the Administrative Code, whenever the relevant legislation is not in line with Council of Europe standards and the case law of the European Court of Human Rights;
9.7. examine means of consulting the population or involving it in the management of public affairs, both at local and national levels, drawing on relevant European standards and good practices, in line also with Resolution 1746 (2010) on democracy in Europe: crisis and perspectives;
9.8. refrain from putting unnecessary administrative and organisational hurdles in the way of the work of civil society organisations by subjecting them to controls, fines and penalties. Such excessive practices intensify popular discontent and may lead to further increased popular protest activity.

10. Finally, the Assembly invites the Secretary General of the Council of Europe to consider drawing up guidelines in respect of human rights in the policing of demonstrations.


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