In response to increasing restrictions on personal freedoms and civil protest, independent national human rights organisations from ten countries today launched the International Network of Civil Liberties Organisations (INCLO). They also released “Take Back the Streets: Repression and Criminalisation of Protest Around the World,” a collection of nine case studies showing patterns of police crackdown and abuse against peaceful assembly, accompanied by concrete recommendations to expand free speech.
“Many rights and freedoms we enjoy are a direct result of protest movements of the past,” said Gastón Chillier, Executive Director of the Centro de Estudios Legales y Sociales in Argentina. “Freedom of speech and, as a result, our societies, will only flourish if peaceful assembly is protected from excessive police force and government obstruction.”
The INCLO investigation and report, “Take Back the Streets”
, brings together examples of protest under attack in which INCLO member groups are involved. The report offers three primary recommendations for governments to advance freedom of speech: increase regulation of less-lethal weapons (tear gas, pepper spray); explicitly affirm support for freedom of peaceful assembly; and, be vigilant against administrative limitations to protest.
“INCLO member organisations will work together to counter the efforts to repress political speech,” said Mark Kelly, Executive Director of the Irish Council for Civil Liberties. “Only when citizens can voice their concerns and advocate openly for positive change can democracy flourish.”
INCLO will eventually have an international Secretariat based in Geneva and lobby governments as well as intergovernmental organisations. INCLO member organisations will collaborate on a bilateral and multilateral basis. The Network’s initial priorities will be: police accountability and social protest; religious freedom and equal treatment; and, informational rights.
Current INCLO members are the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), the Association for Civil Rights in Israel (ACRI), the Canadian Civil Liberties Association, Centro de Estudios Legales y Sociales (Argentina), the Egyptian Initiative for Personal Rights, the Hungarian Civil Liberties Union, the Kenyan Human Rights Commission, the Legal Resources Centre (South Africa), Liberty (United Kingdom) and the Irish Council for Civil Liberties.