On Tuesday, November 18th, a representative of the ACLU, CCLA, CELS, EIPR, HCLU, KHRC, LRC and Liberty, who are part of the International Network of Civil Liberties Organizations (INCLO), made a presentation at a public hearing on the right to protest organized by Brazil’s Federal Attorney General’s Office and Sao Paulo State’s prosecutors’ office. The purpose of the hearing was to exchange data, information, criticism and proposals related to exercising that right.
During the hearing we put forth four principles:
1. The legitimacy of the right to protest
2. The need to regulate the use of force in the context of social protests
3. The wrongful criminalization of social protest
4. The need for accountability of security and police forces
Our organizations believe that a democratic society must not only tolerate but instead actively facilitate social participation and protest. This means the State has a positive duty to safeguard the right to protest and should refrain from imposing unreasonable restrictions on its enjoyment. To fulfill this duty, the State must ensure that security and police forces respond adequately and reasonably to protests by regulating the use of force, including less lethal weapons, in the context of public demonstrations.
During the hearing, we also highlighted that some domestic justice systems act as a repressive force toward local demonstrators and social organizations, while regularly failing to undertake the serious investigations needed to hold state actors accountable for their violent actions during social protests. Therefore, our organizations stressed that States should also provide systems to report and investigate all allegations of excessive use of force by police and security forces, including during public demonstrations.
Speakers at the hearing included officials from the Federal and State Attorney General’s Offices, the General Public Defender of Sao Paulo State, a representative from that State’s Public Security Secretariat, and an expert scholar on this issue. In addition, numerous Brazilian civil society organizations participated in the hearing, including Conectas Direitos Humanos.
This debate is part of an international discussion on the right to protest and the regulation of the use of force by police and security forces that has been taking place over the last year at the UN Human Rights Council, the UN Office on Drugs and Crimes, the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights, and the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe, among others. The growing momentum on this issue reflects the urgent need to improve police and security force intervention in social protests.