Motion for a resolution - B8-0106/2019Motion 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

Marie‑Christine Vergiat, Barbara Spinelli, Malin Björk, Marina Albiol Guzmán, Stefan Eck, Marie‑Pierre Vieu, Dimitrios Papadimoulis, Stelios Kouloglou, Patrick Le Hyaric, Paloma López Bermejo, Marisa Matias, Xabier Benito Ziluaga, Estefanía Torres Martínez, Takis Hadjigeorgiou on behalf of the GUE/NGL 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 Council Regulation (EC) No 1236/2005 of 27 June 2005 concerning trade in certain goods which could be used for capital punishment, torture or other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment[1],

–  having regard to the Universal Declaration of Human Rights,

–  having regard to the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights and the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights,

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

–  having regard to its resolution of 16 January 2019 on the situation of fundamental rights in the European Union[2],

–  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;

B.  whereas international human rights instruments are obligations incumbent on the Union and its Member States and must be respected;

C.  whereas the EU is committed to respecting freedom of expression and information, as well as freedom of assembly and association;

D.  whereas Article 11 of the ECHR and Article 12 of the Charter state that everyone has the right to freedom of peaceful assembly and to freedom of association with others, including the right to form and join trade unions for the protection of their interests;

E.  whereas Article 4 of the Charter and Article 3 of the ECHR state that no one shall be subjected to torture or to inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment and Article 3 of the Charter states that everyone has the right to respect for his or her physical and mental integrity;

F.  whereas Article 11 of the ECHR also states that the freedom of assembly ‘shall not prevent the imposition of lawful restrictions on the exercise of these rights by members of the armed forces, of the police or of the administration of the state’; whereas according to the case law of the ECtHR and the Court of Justice of the European Union all restrictions of fundamental rights and civil liberties must respect the principles of legality, necessity and proportionality;

G.  whereas the right to protest is a fundamental right that cannot be subject to prohibition or control measures in a general and absolute way and can only be restricted by legitimate, proportionate and necessary police measures and in exceptional circumstances; whereas no demonstration should be considered unprotected by this right; whereas priority must be given by law enforcement authorities to voluntary dispersal without the use of force;

H.  whereas freedom of association must be protected; whereas civil society and pluralistic and independent media play a vital role in promoting citizenship and public participation in the democratic process;

I.  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, 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;

J.  whereas the exercise of these freedoms, since it carries with it duties and responsibilities, may be subject to such formalities, conditions, restrictions or penalties as are prescribed by law and are necessary in a democratic society, in the interests of national security, territorial integrity or public safety, for the prevention of disorder or crime, for the protection of health or morals, for the protection of the reputation or rights of others, for preventing the disclosure of information received in confidence, or for maintaining the authority and impartiality of the judiciary, as prescribed by Article 10 of the ECHR;

K.  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 Article 18 of the ECHR states that ‘restrictions permitted under the Convention to rights and freedoms shall not be applied for any purpose other than those for which they have been prescribed’;

L.  whereas the EU has introduced regional mechanisms under Council Regulation (EC) No 1236/2005 and subsequent regulations prohibiting the trade in goods which have no practical use other than for torture or other ill-treatment, and controlling the export of goods that could be used for torture and other ill-treatment, which include certain less-lethal weapons used in policing assemblies;

M.  whereas law enforcement authorities in several Member States have been criticised for undermining the right to protest and using excessive force;

N.  whereas the use of less-lethal weapons including the Flash Ball and LBD 40 defence ball launchers and the GLI-F4 grenade has caused a high number of serious injuries and at least one death during recent demonstrations;

O.  whereas the use of projectile electric shock weapons has been allowed in some Member States, despite their being considered a tool of torture by the UN Committee Against Torture;

P.  whereas the Council of Europe’s Commissioner for Human Rights has expressed concerns about the right to peaceful protest since the beginning of the yellow vests protests in France; whereas at least 3 200 people have been injured in these protests, including 46 children and 44 journalists, among whom 188 have suffered head injuries, 20 have been injured or blinded in one eye and five have had their hands traumatically amputated;

1.  Calls on the Member States to respect the rights to protest, freedom of association and freedom of expression;

2.  Stresses that public debate and the right to protest are vital to the functioning of democratic societies;

3.  Calls on the Member States not to adopt laws or practices that preventively restrict the right to protest or that would criminalise protesters in advance without judicial oversight; stresses that discretionary mass arrests of potential protesters should be avoided;

4.  Condemns violent and disproportionate interventions by the authorities during protests and peaceful demonstrations in several Member States; calls on the relevant authorities to ensure a transparent, impartial, independent and effective investigation when excessive force is suspected or alleged to have been used; recalls that law enforcement agencies must be held accountable for the fulfilment of their duties and their compliance with legal and operational frameworks; stresses that not only individual law enforcement officials but also their superiors, including those at political level, as well as the agency as a whole, should be held accountable;

5.  Condemns those Member States that use excessive force against peaceful demonstrators;

6.  Calls on the Member States to use alternative practices for maintaining public order that have already proven to be effective in some Member States, especially direct communication with demonstrators, including via big screens, avoiding insofar as is possible physical contact with demonstrators and relying on mediation officers with background training in psychology and sociology;

7.  Stresses the importance of regular training in the use of force and less-lethal weapons by all law enforcement officials in the framework of maintaining public order, based on human rights standards;

8.  Notes that the prohibition of certain types of less-lethal weapons has been requested by many international organisations and bodies, including the UN Special Rapporteur on extrajudicial, summary or arbitrary executions and the UN Special Rapporteur on the rights to freedom of peaceful assembly and of association, the Commissioner for Human Rights of the Council of Europe and the Defender of Rights of France;

9.  Is concerned about the fact that the Member States have different thresholds for the use of force and weapons by law enforcement authorities for maintaining public order; regrets the fact that EU citizens are treated very differently by law enforcement authorities and that the protection of their fundamental rights varies;

10.  Calls on its Committee on Petitions to be most diligent with the petitions related to excessive use of force and to review decisions to declare petitions on this issue inadmissible;

11.  Welcomes the decision of some Member States to suspend or ban certain types of less-lethal weapons; urges the prohibition of the manufacture, trade and use of certain types of less-lethal weapons and devices for maintaining public order, such as LBD40 flash balls, GLI-F4 grenades and sting-ball grenades, the use of which can cause serious injuries or death, and may amount to torture;

12.  Regrets the decision of some Member States to allow the use of projectile electric shock weapons, considered a tool of torture by the UN Committee Against Torture, for maintaining public order;

13.  Calls on its Committee on Civil Liberties, Justice and Home Affairs to commission hearings into 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 on the use of force and less-lethal weapons for Member States; encourages the Commission and the Fundamental Rights Agency to collaborate in all these processes;

14.  Calls on the Member States to ensure that their fundamental rights obligations are respected, and that the use of force by law enforcement authorities is always a last resort and is always lawful, proportionate and necessary, when managing protests and demonstrations;

15.  Recalls that law enforcement policies, instructions and operations must give special consideration to persons particularly vulnerable to the harmful consequences of the use of force in general as well as 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;

16.  Calls on the Member States to foster the continuous training of law enforcement personnel in all police forces in national and international human rights law;

17.  Calls on the Member States to introduce EU-wide guidelines for a transparent, independent and consistent selection, testing and trialling process for the weapons used by law enforcement personnel, based on UN standards, recommendations and guiding principles; notes that this assessment should determine compliance with international human rights law and standards prior to selection and deployment; calls on the Member States to collect data on all uses of force to enable the gathering of evidence about use, misuse, unexpected consequences, injuries and deaths and their causes;

18.  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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