Motion for a resolution - B8-0104/2019Motion for a resolution

MOTION FOR A RESOLUTION on the right to peaceful protest and the proportionate use of force

11.2.2019 - (2019/2569(RSP))

to wind up the debate on the statement by the Commission
pursuant to Rule 123(2) of the Rules of Procedure

Eva Joly, Ernest Urtasun, Margrete Auken, Josep‑Maria Terricabras, Jordi Solé, Yannick Jadot, Pascal Durand on behalf of the Verts/ALE Group

See also joint motion for a resolution RC-B8-0104/2019

Procedure : 2019/2569(RSP)
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European Parliament resolution on the right to peaceful protest and the proportionate use of force


The European Parliament,

–  having regard to the EU Treaties, and in particular Articles 2, 3, 4, 6 and 7 of the Treaty on European Union (TEU),

–  having regard to the Charter of Fundamental Rights of the European Union (hereinafter ‘the Charter’),

–  having regard to the European Convention on Human Rights (ECHR) and the related case-law of the European Court of Human Rights (ECtHR),

–  having regard to the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR),

–  having regard to the comparative study on national legislation on freedom of peaceful assembly endorsed by the Venice Commission at its 99th plenary session (Venice, 13-14 June 2014),

–  having regard to the OSCE Office for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights (ODIHR) Human Rights Handbook on Policing Assemblies,

–  having regard to the Venice Commission and the OSCE ODIHR’s Guidelines on Freedom of Peaceful Assembly,

–  having regard to the UN Basic Principles on the Use of Force and Firearms by Law Enforcement Officials and to the UN Code of Conduct for Law Enforcement Officials,

–  having regard to the UN Joint report of the Special Rapporteur on the rights to freedom of peaceful assembly and of association and the Special Rapporteur on extrajudicial, summary or arbitrary executions on the proper management of assemblies,

–  having regard to its resolution of 16 January 2019 on the situation of fundamental rights in the European Union in 2017[1],

–  having regard to Rule 123(2) of its Rules of Procedure,

A.  whereas the EU is founded on the values of respect for human dignity, freedom, democracy, equality, the rule of law and respect for human rights, including the rights of persons belonging to minorities; whereas these values are common to the Member States in a society in which pluralism, non-discrimination, tolerance, justice, solidarity and equality between women and men prevail;

B.  whereas fundamental rights, given that they originate from the constitutional traditions common to the Member States, must constitute general principles of the Union’s law, and whereas international human rights instruments must be respected;

C.  whereas the rule of law is the backbone of democracy and is one of the founding principles of the EU, operating on the basis of the presumption of mutual trust that Member States uphold respect for democracy, the rule of law and fundamental rights, as enshrined in the Charter and the ECHR;

D.  whereas Article 12 of the Charter and Article 11 of the ECHR, as well as Article 21 of the ICCPR, state that everyone has the right to freedom of peaceful assembly;

E.  whereas Article 4 of the Charter and Article 3 of the ECHR, as well as Article 7 of the ICCPR, state that no one shall be subjected to torture or to inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment;

F.  whereas freedom of assembly goes hand in hand with freedom of expression as ensured by Article 11 of the Charter and Article 10 of the ECHR, as well as Article 19 of the ICCPR, stating that everyone has the right to freedom of expression, which includes the freedom to hold opinions and to receive and impart information and ideas without interference by public authorities and regardless of frontiers;

G.  whereas a vibrant civil society and pluralistic media play a vital role in promoting an open and pluralistic society and public participation in the democratic process, and in strengthening the accountability of governments;

H.  whereas Article 52 of the Charter states that ‘any limitation on the exercise of the rights and freedoms recognised by this Charter must be provided for by law and respect the essence of those rights and freedoms’; whereas, subject to the principle of proportionality, limitations may be imposed only if they are necessary and genuinely meet objectives of general interest recognised by the Union or the need to protect the rights and freedoms of others;

I.  whereas law enforcement authorities in several Member States have been criticised for undermining the right to freedom of peaceful assembly and using excessive force;

J.  whereas on 6 February 2019, several UN human rights experts urged the UK not to use security and terrorism-related legislation to prosecute peaceful protesters, following the conviction of the so-called Stansted 15, who took action at the airport in south-east England to prevent a deportation flight;

K.  whereas on 29 January 2019, the Council of Europe’s Commissioner for Human Rights expressed concerns about the large number of people injured in or on the sidelines of the protests in France, including by projectiles from so-called intermediary defence weapons such as the defensive bullet launcher, as well as concerns about the draft provisions to prohibit participation in a demonstration as a preventive measure, on the basis of an administrative decision and without any prior review by a court, and the draft provision making it a criminal offence to intentionally conceal part or all of the face in or near a demonstration;

L.  whereas on 13 December 2018, several UN human rights experts expressed concerns at reports that several human rights defenders had been harassed, arbitrarily detained and questioned for several hours by the Polish authorities at the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (COP24) in Katowice; whereas on 5 December 2016, the Council of Europe’s Commissioner for Human Rights and the Director of the OSCE ODIHR expressed serious concern over legal amendments undermining the right to freedom of assembly in Poland;

M.  whereas on 20 November 2018, the Council of Europe’s Commissioner for Human Rights underscored that the application of the Law on Citizens’ Safety in Spain has resulted in sanctions imposed on unclear grounds against journalists filming law enforcement forces, and on persons taking part in peaceful demonstrations and other public gatherings, and expressed concerns about the possibility of imposing sanctions on persons convoking non-notified demonstrations; whereas on 4 October 2017, the Council of Europe’s Commissioner for Human Rights and several UN human rights experts raised concerns regarding allegations of the disproportionate use of force by law enforcement authorities in Catalonia on 1 October 2017, and called for an investigation;

N.  whereas in its resolution of 13 November 2018 on the rule of law in Romania[2], the European Parliament condemned the violent and disproportionate intervention by the police during the protests in Bucharest in August 2018, and called on the Romanian authorities to ensure a transparent, impartial and effective investigation into the actions of the riot police;

1.  Calls on the Member States to respect the rights of freedom of peaceful assembly and freedom of expression;

2.  Stresses that open public debate is vital to the functioning of democratic societies; believes that violence against peaceful demonstrators can never be a solution;

3.  Condemns the adoption of restrictive laws concerning freedom of assembly in several Member States in recent years;

4.  Condemns the use of violent and disproportionate interventions by state authorities during protests and peaceful demonstrations; encourages the relevant authorities to ensure a transparent, impartial and effective investigation when the use of disproportionate force is suspected or has been alleged; recalls that law enforcement agencies must always be held accountable for the fulfilment of their duties and their compliance with the relevant legal and operational frameworks;

5.  Urges the Member States to refrain from employing excessive force and arbitrary detention against peaceful demonstrators; calls on the Member States to ensure that the use of force by law enforcement authorities is always lawful, proportionate, necessary and the last resort, and that it preserves human life and physical integrity; notes that the indiscriminate use of force against crowds contravenes the principle of proportionality; notes the important role of journalists and photojournalists in reporting cases of disproportionate violence, and condemns the instances in which they have been deliberately targeted;

6.  Calls on the Member States to use alternative practices which have already proven to be effective, notably those which avoid physical contact with demonstrators and rely on mediation officers;

7.  Recalls that law enforcement policies must give special consideration to persons who are particularly vulnerable to the harmful consequences of the use of force in general, as well as to the effects of specific less-lethal weapons, such as children, pregnant women, elderly people, persons with disabilities, persons suffering from mental illness or persons under the influence of drugs or alcohol;

8.  Encourages the Member States’ law enforcement officials to actively participate in the training offered by the European Union Agency for Law Enforcement Training (CEPOL) on ‘Public order – policing of major events’; encourages the Member States to exchange best practices in this regard; calls on the Member States to foster the continuous training of police forces in national and international human rights law;

9.  Stresses that law enforcement authorities must give priority to voluntary dispersal without the use of force; insists that firearms should never be lawfully used to disperse an assembly, but may only be used where strictly necessary to confront an imminent threat to life or of serious injury;

10.  Condemns the use of certain types of less-lethal weapons, such as kinetic impact projectiles and instant tear gas grenades, by police forces against peaceful demonstrators, weapons which have even been used in regions where they have been banned; also condemns the use of tear gas, water cannons and similar means of dispersing protesters, which can cause serious injuries with lifelong consequences; notes that the prohibition of certain types of less-lethal weapons has been requested by numerous international organisations and bodies;

11.  Is concerned about the fact that the Member States have different thresholds for the use of force and weapons; regrets the fact that EU citizens are treated very differently by law enforcement authorities and that their fundamental rights are not equally protected everywhere;

12.  Welcomes the decision by some Member States and their regions to suspend or ban certain types of less-lethal weapons; urges the prohibition of the use of certain types of less-lethal weapons and devices, including, for example, launchers of kinetic impact projectiles, such as Flash-ball or LBD 40, sting-ball grenades, and instant tear gas grenades, such as GLI F4;

13.  Calls on the Member States to ensure that all weapons are independently assessed and trialled before being introduced on to the market and that all ongoing data on all use of force is collected. so that evidence concerning use, misuse, unexpected consequences, injuries and deaths and their causes can be gathered;

14.  Instructs its Committee on Civil Liberties, Justice and Home Affairs to organise a hearing on the use of force and less-lethal weapons against assemblies, and to prepare a report on this topic in collaboration with the STOA panel with a view to developing guidelines for the Member States on the use of force and less-lethal weapons; encourages the Commission and the Fundamental Rights Agency to take part in this process;

15.  Instructs its Committee on Petitions to give proper consideration to petitions concerning violations of the right to freedom of peaceful assembly and the excessive use of force in this context;

16.  Instructs its President to forward this resolution to the Council, the Commission, the governments and parliaments of the Member States, the Council of Europe, the Organisation for Security and Cooperation in Europe and the United Nations.

Last updated: 12 February 2019
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