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Marginalized groups: UN human rights expert calls for an end to relegation

GENEVA (12 June 2014) – Persons with disabilities, youth, women, lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and intersex people, members of minority groups, indigenous people, internally displaced persons, and non-national, including refugees, asylum seekers and migrant workers…

The list of marginalized groups ‘most at risk’ is long and the challenges they face worldwide in exercising, or seeking to exercise, their assembly and association rights are enormous, United Nations independent expert Maina Kiai said during the presentation of his report* on the assembly and association rights of marginalized groups to UN Human Rights Council.

“International human rights law is clear in its definition of discrimination,” the Special Rapporteur on the rights to freedom of peaceful assembly and of association said.

“However, there are too many instances where laws meant to regulate the freedoms of peaceful assembly and of association or general legal provisions contain discriminatory provisions that restrict or entirely prohibit certain groups of individuals belonging to those groups from exercising their rights to assemble and associate,” Mr. Kiai stressed.

“Inaction by authorities to protect the rights of marginalized groups to freely assemble has a chilling effect on groups that would otherwise exercise this right,” he said. “And the situation is not any better in relation to the right to freedom of association.”

According to the report, some States are taking advantage of their legitimate obligation to regulate areas such as counter-terrorism to target the activities of marginalized groups. Moreover, surveillance tactics ostensibly designed to prevent criminal activity are often used selectively to target certain groups who plan to stage peaceful assemblies.

“The rights to freedom of peaceful assembly and of association are due to everyone without distinction,” the human rights expert underscored. “They play a key role in empowering individuals belonging to groups most at risk to claim other rights and overcome the challenges associated with marginalization.”

The Special Rapporteur also presented a report on his official mission to Rwanda and another focusing on observations of communications transmitted to Governments and replies received between 1 March 2013 and 28 February 2014.

(*) Check the Special Rapporteur’s full report: http://www.ohchr.org/EN/HRBodies/HRC/RegularSessions/Session26/Pages/ListReports.aspx

Mr. Maina Kiai (Kenya) took up his functions as the first Special Rapporteur on the rights to freedom of peaceful assembly and of association on May 2011. Mr Kiai has been Executive Director of the International Council on Human Rights Policy; Chair of the Kenya National Human Rights Commission; Africa Director of the International Human Rights Law Group; and Africa Director of Amnesty International. As Special Rapporteur, he is independent from any Government or organization and serves in his individual capacity. Learn more, log on to: http://www.ohchr.org/EN/Issues/AssemblyAssociation/Pages/SRFreedomAssemblyAssociationIndex.aspx

For more information and media requests, please contact Guillaume Pfeifflé (+41 22 917 9384/ gpfeiffle@ohchr.org) or Karen Blanc (+41 22 917 9400 / kblanc@ohchr.org) or write to freeassembly@ohchr.org.

For media inquiries related to other UN independent experts:
Xabier Celaya, UN Human Rights – Media Unit (+ 41 22 917 9383 / xcelaya@ohchr.org)

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