A human rights organisation headquartered in the United Kingdom, Amnesty International, has said that an interactive map revealed state-sanctioned violence against protesters across the world.
Amnesty in a statement released on Tuesday while launching an interactive digital map that exposes the rise in the repression of protesters by states across the globe, stated that authorities across the world are increasingly resorting to unlawful use of force and repressive legislation to crush protests.
According to Amnesty International, the global map which is part of its flagship global campaign tagged Protect the Protest, charts the numerous human rights violations perpetrated against protesters around the world.
The global map, according to Amnesty, showed how governments treat protests as a threat rather than a right and how law enforcement officials view their role as being to suppress and subdue protesters rather than to facilitate their rights, stressing that as a result, thousands of people are being unlawfully dispersed, arrested, beaten and even killed during demonstrations, and are also made to face devastating consequences afterwards, just for participating in protests.
“Peaceful protest is a right, not a privilege, and one that states have a duty to respect, protect and facilitate. However, the right to protest is increasingly under threat, with authorities using unlawful force against people in over 85 countries.
“From abusive use of force, arbitrary arrest and detention, to torture and other ill-treatment, enforced disappearances and state-sanctioned killings, this map sheds light on the heavy repression suffered by protesters around the world – and it is terrifying,” said Patrick Wilcken, Amnesty International's Researcher on Military, Security and Policing issues.
“For far too long, authorities across the world have launched a blistering attack on those who peacefully exercise their right to protest— and they have destroyed lives in the process.
“In Iran, the authorities have unlawfully killed hundreds and arbitrarily detained tens of thousands of people, including children, to crush successive waves of nationwide protests.
“Countless protesters have also been subjected to torture and other ill-treatment, including sexual violence, in detention, including those who were sentenced to death after sham, grossly unfair trials and subsequently arbitrarily executed.
“In China, it is impossible to protest peacefully without facing harassment and prosecution and huge numbers of activists are jailed for speaking out. The list of activists – and countries – under threat keeps growing. This repression must stop now.”
Amnesty further stated that the interactive digital map revealed how many countries misuse less lethal weapons such as tear gas, rubber bullets, pepper spray, and batons to harass, intimidate, punish, or drive away protesters, shutting down their right of peaceful assembly.
The human rights organisation quoted a Brazilian specialist and human rights activist who currently works at the International Secretariat of Amnesty International in London, Patrick Wilcken, as saying, “Despite the widespread misuse of less lethal weapons, there is no global control over the production, trade and use of these weapons. It is shocking.
“This map highlights the need for an international treaty to regulate the trade in policing equipment so less lethal weapons don’t end up in the hands of abusive police forces.”
As well as pinpointing the countries where protesters suffer abuse and the kind of threats they face, the map also details current legislation on protests, relevant UN publications and international court judgements, and explains how people can take action. Updated in real-time, it presents a chilling picture of the daily reality for protesters across the world.
Amnesty noted that it is widely recognized that the right to protest was significantly curtailed during the COVID-19 pandemic, given that gatherings in most countries were generally prohibited on public health grounds.
It stated that some states, however, used the pandemic as a pretext to further restrict gatherings or to introduce disproportionate restrictions, adding that according to the Human Rights Measurement Initiative, many countries struggled to bounce back, citing Angola as scoring 3.4 out of 10 on the right to assembly and association in its 2023 Rights Tracker.
An activist from Angola’s Movement for Women in Politics, Elizabeth Campos, was quoted by Amnesty as saying, “When we attend protests, the experience is always one of near death. We leave, but we are not sure if we will return to our families. It is a country where democracy only exists on paper. Protests can turn very violent, so every time I return to my daughters and grandsons, I celebrate. We constantly suffer from institutional violence in my country.”
The statement noted that based on Amnesty International’s monitoring, there were credible allegations of state forces using unlawful force against peaceful protesters in 2022 in at least 86 of the 156 countries covered in its annual report.
“In 37 countries, security forces used lethal weapons against protesters, even though firearms are not suitable for crowd control and the police should never use them to disperse an assembly.
“In India, for example, the authorities have resorted to the use of guns, tear gas, baton charges, internet shutdowns, and even forced evictions against people protesting the government. In China, those who dare to protest risk losing their right to education and housing.
“Recently, in Peru, the unlawful use of lethal force by security forces resulted in 49 deaths during the protests. Globally, research from Amnesty International reveals that protesters have been arbitrarily arrested in over 50% of the countries covered in its annual report,” Amnesty stated.
The statement further quoted Wilcken as saying, “This global map clearly depicts the widespread scale of the repression and restrictions faced by protesters around the world. A litany of serious human rights violations occurs during the policing of protests across the globe, which is a huge concern.
“Marking human rights violations on a map allows us to visualize and track the global scale of the issue. It also exposes the governments that are failing to protect the right to protest and helps to hold law enforcement authorities to account for shocking abuses they commit amid efforts to crush demonstrations.
“Amnesty International is calling on governments to urgently overhaul their approach, put a stop to this abhorrent violence and ensure they protect and facilitate peaceful protests.”