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The Right to Protest Peacefully is an Essential Enabler of Other Rights and Freedoms
March 28, 2014

Statement by the U.S. Delegation
to the 25th Session of the United Nations Human Rights Council

As Delivered by Paula Schriefer
Head of the U.S. Delegation

Thank you Mr. President.

United States strongly supports this resolution L. 20 on peaceful protests.  We will vote yes on the resolution and will vote no on the amendments.  We ask others to join us in this vote.

As the lead sponsor of the annual resolution on Freedom of Association and Assembly, which is a consensus resolution, we view the ability to protest peacefully as an essential enabler of other rights and freedoms.   Peaceful protests are often an important form of political expression – a form which is also sometimes politically divisive.

The amendments proposed today would restrict the ability to make such political expression and could have serious negative consequences for the enjoyment of these fundamental freedoms.

For example, the most insidious of the proposed amendments is L 50, which would restrict the ability of those to conduct peaceful protests for reasons of National Security.

National security is too often interpreted overly broadly and is used as a pretext to restrict protests which are essentially political in nature.  In my own country, the demonstrations for racial equality led by Martin Luther King Jr. were wrongly restricted by security officials using such pretexts.

Other great leaders of protest marches – including Nelson Mandela and Mahatma Gandhi– faced restriction of their peaceful protests for similar reasons.  We find such restrictions incompatible with support for freedom of assembly, freedom of expression and other rights protected by the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights and the Universal Declaration.

As a result, the United States will vote against these amendments and in favor of the resolution on peaceful protests.   We urge others to join us.