1) In their legislation and binding law enforcement regulations, states should elaborate clear and operationally focused rules on the policing of protests
and make these available to the public. Policing of protests should be guided by the human rights principles of legality, necessity, proportionality and non- discrimination and should comply at all times with international human rights law and standards on policing, in particular the UN Code of Conduct for Law Enforcement Officials and the UN Basic Principles on the Use of Force and Firearms by Law Enforcement Officials. The law enforcement officials should, in particular:

a) Be clear that their primary duty is to facilitate protests, and this should be emphasised through all aspects of training, planning processes, and the execution and evaluation of operations;

b) Receive adequate training and other resources so as to be restrained and proportionate in policing protests. Training should include human rights standards and clarify the circumstances in which restrictions can be imposed, the limits of their authority, methods of understanding crowd behavior, and the methods and skills needed in order to minimise and de-escalate conflict, such as negotiation and mediation;

c) Seek to establish or improve dialogue with the organisers of protests
in advance where possible; to create mutual understanding, reduce tensions, evaluate potential risks and conflict escalation and agree how best to facilitate the protest. They should also undertake voluntary debriefings with protesters after an event to assess any issues that may have arisen;

d) Establish clear law enforcement command structures and well-defined operational responsibilities, as well as points of contact within the law enforcement agency before, during and after protests;

e)  Develop strategies to establish or improve communication with the public and the media before, during, and after protests to convey an objective and balanced policing perspective on events, and to ensure that protesters and the public can make informed decisions;

f) Wear regular gear and uniforms; riot or special enforcement gear should be an exceptional measure, used where strictly necessary in light of a full risk assessment, considering the potential for such equipment to be counter-productive to the de-escalation of conflict;

g) Clearly display numerals or other individualised identification at all times and refrain from preventing individuals from reading them during protests; any failure by individual officers to comply with this requirement should be dealt with swiftly and robustly. Plain-clothes officers should be required to identify themselves before taking any police action.

2) Decisions to disperse protests should be taken as a last resort, in line with the principles of necessity and proportionality, and should be ordered by a competent authority only if an imminent threat of violence outweighs the right to protest.

a) Dispersals should never be ordered due to non-compliance with prior notification requirements (if such requirements exist), or failure to comply with other illegitimate prior restrictions on protest;


b) Isolated and sporadic acts of violence by individuals within a protest shall not justify the dispersal of a protest;


c) Law enforcement officers should be obliged to clearly communicate and explain orders to disperse, so as to obtain, as far as possible, the understanding and compliance of protesters; protesters must be given sufficient time to disperse before there is any recourse to coercive means.

3) Crowd-control strategies that temporarily deprive specific individuals of their freedom of movement should be used exceptionally and only if law enforcement officers have reasonable grounds to believe that the individuals being contained are liable to cause violence or serious disturbances elsewhere. Such strategies should not be used to arrest protesters individually or en masse, but only as a form of extremely limited and temporary crowd control, where other means have been exhausted and only for as long as is absolutely necessary. Where containment is deployed, the police should moderate their impact by ensuring:

a) Easy access to information for protesters and the public regarding the reason for, anticipated duration of, and exit routes from any police containment;

b) Clear signposting to basic facilities and amenities as part of the prior planning;

c) Immediate access to the emergency services, as well as to state and non- state providers of first aid and other forms of assistance and care;

d) Non-violent protesters and bystanders trapped as a result of the strategy, as well as vulnerable or distressed persons, are able to leave.

To comment in detail on state duty to adopt a human rights approach to policing protests, click here

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