Vance Center Co-Sponsors Support of Peaceful Assemblies and Association

January 2022

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The Vance Center co-sponsored an event to promote the Guidelines for Lawyers in Support of Peaceful Assemblies (Guidelines) presented by Clément N. Voule, the UN Special Rapporteur on Freedom of Assembly and Association at the 47th session of the United Nations Human Rights Council. The Vance Center, in partnership with White & Case, supported the Special Rapporteur’s research to develop the Guidelines, which provide a non-exhaustive list of practical recommendations for lawyers working on access to justice in the context of peaceful assemblies.

The event, marking the International Day of the Endangered Lawyer, highlighted the role of lawyers in facilitating, promoting, and protecting the right to freedom of assembly and association before, during, and after peaceful assemblies. It was organized by the Geneva Human Rights Platform, the International Bar Association’s Human Rights Institute (IBAHRI), the Geneva Bar Association, the UN Special Rapporteur on Freedom of Assembly and Association, the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights, the United States Permanent Mission in Geneva and the International Commission of Jurists, and co-sponsored by the American Bar Association, Lawyers for Lawyers, Lawyers’ Rights Watch Canada, CIVICUS, Media Defense, and Robert F. Kennedy Human Rights, as well as the Vance Center.

In his keynote address, Phillip Riblett, Legal Adviser, US Mission to the United Nations, commended the Guidelines for providing a set of meaningful, practical principles and recommendations for lawyers working to promote the rights of peaceful assembly and freedom of association, timely given the recent protests on racial injustice and fair elections. He reviewed why the Guidelines were integral to the values of peaceful assembly to protect human rights. Special Rapporteur Voule explained that the Guidelines were drawn from the collective experience of legal practitioners to provide recommendations for safeguarding protests in restrictive and threatening environments. He acknowledged that the COVID-19 pandemic has served to shrink civil space and criminalize free assembly. He concluded that the role of lawyers as independent observers and arbiters of the police and protesters could not be over-emphasized in the context of peaceful assemblies, and committed to working with lawyers and bar associations for the full implementation of the Guidelines.

Other panelists, including IBAHRI Director Baroness Helena Kennedy QC,  Alejandro Lanz, Co-Director of Temblores, Colombia, and Dennis Kwok, Former Member of the Legislative Council of Hong Kong, discussed the prosecution of lawyers, human rights defenders, and victims who report on police violence, and advocated for police reforms in countries like Colombia. The panel concluded that, in line with Article 23 of the Basic Principles on the Role of Lawyers, lawyers should take part in public discussions of matters concerning the law, the administration of justice, and the promotion and protection of human rights.