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

Check out all the latest updates to this topic

ACHPR 69: Outcome of the 69th ordinary session of the African Commission

Since 2020, the African Commission on Human and Peoples' Rights has been holding its public sessions virtually. For the first time, the 69th session which took place from 15 November 2021 to 5 December 2021 was held in a hybrid format with all Commissioners participating from Dakar, Senegal and participants joining online.

ACHPR 69: Protect women human rights defenders in Sudan

During each ordinary session of the African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights (‘The African Commission’), Commissioners present their activity reports which provides an overview of the work done in between two sessions. On 23 November 2021, the Special Rapporteur on human rights defenders and Focal point on reprisals presented his report.

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