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Respect and facilitate the right to protest

Justice & Peace calls upon the Dutch national and local authorities to foster the broad interpretation and facilitation of the right to non-violent protest. Also, – and especially – in times of great social, economic, and political challenges it is essential that different, new, and diverging opinions can be heard.

As a human rights organisation, Justice & Peace supports international human rights defenders around the world who are at risk because of their work. They often operate in dictatorial, suppressive, or unfree societies in which it is not only forbidden or dangerous to protest, but also to freely express yourself, to organise yourself, or have gatherings. Their messages are not heard. In fact, they are being punished for their attempts to peacefully commit themselves to a just and sustainable society for everyone.

The right to protest is a crucial part of a righteous, inclusive, and flexible society. Non-violent protests can contribute to social, economic, and political change, as well as the consistent implementation of human rights. Allowing and encouraging protests provides space for involved citizens, and results in a stronger civil society. Citizens, societal organisations, and interest groups are given the opportunity to express their opinions and dissenting views that expose shortcomings in current policies and actions of governments and other official institutions, while at the same time providing ways to approach current problems. This way, governments are held directly accountable, are being kept on their toes, and are available for anyone to directly address challenges, or to find solutions to problems.

International agreements and national laws do allow for some exemptions, but only under very specific conditions. In the case that demonstrations endanger the health of citizens, disrupt traffic, or cause disorder that cannot be prevented in a reasonable manner, local authorities can restrict, or in more extreme cases, prohibit demonstrations. More important is that in such cases authorities should make every effort to allow for the continuance of the gathering or demonstration, facilitating it in a safe way.

The Netherlands is an open and democratic society. A country wherein those who advocate for peaceful change have always been given a stage and in some cases protection. Non-violent protests should not be seen as a threat, but as a legitimate means for citizens to express their worries and fears, share their opinion, and be represented in the government. Indeed, non-violent protests should be considered an opportunity. Therefore, We call on governments to not only respect the right to protest but to do everything in their power to enable non-violent protests and to provide space for the opinions and input of citizens, civil society organizations, and interest groups. Limit the right to protest only in exceptional situations. Respect and facilitate the right to protest.