Freedom of expression

Freedom of expression, association and assembly

Protection of the rights to freedom of expression, association and assembly is essential for human rights defenders to do their vital work to ensure freedom, dignity, equality and justice for all.

The rights to gather together, share our views, raise our grievances, express dissent, propose solutions, and protest for change are vital for progress and for the realisation of all other human rights. 

Exercising, promoting and protecting these rights – the rights to freedom of expression, freedom of association and freedom of peaceful assembly – is integral to the work of human rights defenders and to the promotion and protection of all other rights. Each of the rights is enshrined in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, the UN Declaration on Human Rights Defenders and many national constitutions and laws.

Unfortunately, some governments, businesses and other non-state actors do not welcome scrutiny, accountability, criticism, free speech or calls for change. In some countries human rights defenders face threats and attacks, have their organisations shut down, and are criminalised, detained or even killed merely for speaking out or protesting. They may also face intimidation or reprisals for providing evidence or testimony to the UN. 

ISHR supports human rights defenders in the exercise of their rights to freedom of expression and association at the international and regional levels, including by accrediting and supporting defenders to attend and speak out at the UN and in regional fora such as the African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights. We also stand up for defenders when their rights are violated or denied, mobilising high-level officials within the UN and allied governments to speak out and push for accountability when defenders are subject to attacks, threats or restrictions. At the national level, our work with local partners to promote the enactment of human rights defender protection laws helps ensure that defenders’ rights to free speech, access to information, peaceful protest, freedom of association and public participation, among others, are guaranteed under national law.

Latest updates

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HRC50: Sudan must end violence against peaceful protestors and women human rights defenders

On 15 June 2022, the Human Rights Council held the interactive dialogue on the report of the High Commissioner on the situation of human rights since, and human rights violations and abuses committed during, the period of the military takeover in the Sudan. ISHR delivered a joint statement on behalf of MENA Women Human Rights Defenders Coalition, Sudan Women Rights Action and Nora Center for Combating Sexual Violence, on the situation of women and human rights in Sudan to shed light on the struggle for equality, freedom and democracy.

Commemorating Alaa Al-Siddiq

One year ago, the human rights community was shocked to hear of the death of Emirati human rights defender Alaa Al-Siddiq in a tragic car accident, the day after she celebrated her 33rd birthday. We, the undersigned organisations, are taking the occasion of her birthday to announce the designation of this day, 18 June, as “Alaa Al-Siddiq Day”.

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