International Network of Civil Liberties Organizations

Police Brutality
and Social Protest

We continue to see the direct repression of social protests, not only in the global South but also in the global North. Violent actions by police forces include the excessive use of force, the use and abuse of less lethal weapons, and violent techniques of crowd dispersal including, on some occasions, the use of firearms against protesters. These practices have resulted in thousands of injuries and countless deaths.

We also witness the proliferation of new legislation and norms that seek to limit the exercise of the right to assembly, and the increased criminalisation of protest movements through the persecution and prosecution of protesters and activist leaders. Debates on these issues are happening at the national, regional and international levels, and INCLO members as a group of national organisations can act jointly to influence discussions on standard-setting and to produce knowledge to fill gaps on the proper management of assemblies.

Our goals are:

  1. To advocate against repressive police and security responses to social protests and human rights activism, while promoting the protection of the freedom to assembly
  2. To raise awareness about the misuse and abuse of crowd control weapons (CCWs) and the holes in regulating this kind of equipment
  3. To promote proper management of assemblies in our national contexts
  4. To promote the development of standards on the management of protests at the international and regional levels

Some highlights:

  1. INCLO has published two reports:
    • — In October 2013, it launched the report “Take back the streets: Repression and criminalization of protest around the world,” which includes case studies (each written by a different INCLO member) with contemporary examples of distinct state reactions to activism and protest in unique domestic contexts. The cases highlight instances of excessive use of force resulting in injury and death, and discriminatory treatment and criminalisation of social leaders. All the cases show the integral role played by civil society organisations in protecting these fundamental democratic rights.
    • — In March 2016, INCLO launched a joint report with Physicians for Human Rights called “Lethal in disguise: The health consequences of crowd control weapons.” This report aims to raise awareness about the misuse and abuse of crowd control weapons, their detrimental health effects and the impact of their use on the meaningful enjoyment of freedom of assembly and expression. It makes a contribution to the field by providing information about the health consequences that these weapons can have, a topic on which knowledge is lacking.
  2. INCLO's members participated actively and substantively in the process led by the UN Special Rapporteur on the rights to freedom of peaceful assembly and of association, Maina Kiai, and the Special Rapporteur on extrajudicial, summary or arbitrary executions, Christof Heyns, to draft a report with recommendations on how to manage assemblies, as mandated by Resolution 25/38, adopted by the UN Human Rights Council in April 2014. As a result, the Rapporteurs’ report includes much of the input given by the network’s members. “Practical recommendations for the proper management of assemblies” takes a step forward towards establishing international standards on the policing of social protests and is a significant and meaningful contribution to discussions on these issues.

Publications:

Informational
Rights

INCLO’s recent information rights activism has centered on defending our human rights in our digital and online spaces. Governments across the globe surveil and collect people’s digital communications. Private companies also harvest and share our personal data. This often occurs without our knowledge or consent.

It is clear that domestic legislation is slow to respond to the technological advancements permitting privacy encroachments. Legal loopholes, together with poor oversight and public disclosure, allow for the violation of our fundamental rights including our right to privacy and freedom of expression. Journalists, civil societies, and vulnerable and marginal populations are at particular risk of interference.

Against this background, INCLO has striven to defend information rights challenges relating to privacy in the digital age. At global and local levels, we seek to protect and enhance digital privacy, freedom and access from undue interferences from governments and private actors alike.

Our goals are:

  1. Practical. We work to promote encryption use and digital privacy education for civil societies, NGOs and the public;
  2. Reform based. We push for higher standards of information and privacy rights protection at the legal and policy level through litigation, grassroots activism, and policy lobbying;
  3. Global. We work with treaty bodies, regional organisms, and local governments and agencies to push for the highest standards of information rights and privacy protections.

Highlights:

  1. INCLO's International Intelligence Sharing Project

    Despite the uproar over Snowden’s revelations of vast and secretive networks seriously affecting our individual freedoms, there is still no permitted public access to agreements governing intelligence sharing anywhere in the world. INCLO members formed a multinational coalition asking governments to release information regarding agreements between the intelligence agencies of their countries. Our report shows the results of our requests, together with desk research and intelligence agency interviews about INCLO country legislation and oversight.

  2. Encryption rights - Telegram crackdown in Russia

    INCLO sent an open letter to Google, Amazon, Microsoft and Apple asking them to publicly condemn the internet crackdown in the country, as precipitated by the Moscow court ban on the encrypted messaging service Telegram LLP. All members voiced their concern for the threat to the right to privacy and freedom of expression in Russia.

  3. Legal challenge in the United Kingdom

    Led by Liberty UK, six INCLO members argued before the European Court of Human Rights that cross-border programmes deployed by UK government agencies to intercept international communications content and data are unlawful. The decision is pending shortly.

Publications:

Religious Freedom
and Equal Treatment

In many contexts all over the world, we are witnessing tensions between two sets of human rights: religious freedom and equality principles. Businesses refuse to serve same-sex couples because of faith. Hospitals refuse to refer for or provide abortions due to faith. Schools, governments and employers turn away or criminalise people because they don niqabs or turbans or crosses. Customary laws and practices often de facto violate other freedoms, particularly those of women. And in some countries, faith remains inseparable from the state in ways that complicate questions of religious plurality and equality.

As civil liberties and human rights organisations, we are concerned about encroachment on the freedom to practise religious or customary rites. Valuing religious freedom as we do, we consider that it can be properly restricted by the state only where justified on robust, principled and evidenced grounds. Any claim that the interests of the majority justify restrictions on the religious freedom of the minority must be subject to the most rigorous scrutiny. On the other hand, valuing equality as we do, we consider that claims to religious freedom must be subjected to the most rigorous level of scrutiny when they are invoked to justify harm to others, and we are concerned that the right to equality is not always given its proper weight when balanced against these claims.

In this framework, we bring our commitment to both sets of human rights to inform an analysis of these tensions as well as to work in support of equality and religious freedom that does not harm others.

Our goals are:

  1. To inform the tension between religious freedom and equality by providing an analysis of the way in which we protect religious freedom but do not allow it to be used to harm others, including by undermining equality
  2. To bring advocates together to share experiences on these issues, with a view to identifying and exchanging successful strategies and counterarguments
  3. To advance equality and religious liberty (that does not harm others)

Some highlights:

  1. INCLO released its first report on religious freedom and equal treatment, "Drawing the Line: Tackling Tensions between Religion and Equality," making a contribution to the field by articulating a fundamental principle for resolving tensions between religion and equality: religious freedom means the right to our beliefs, a right that is fundamental and must be vigorously defended; however, religious freedom does not give us the right to impose our views on others, including by discriminating against or otherwise harming them.
  2. INCLO’s members distribute the international quarterly newsletter “Global Developments in Religious Freedom and Equal Treatment,” which reports on cases that reveal the tensions between them, thus pointing to trends and the need for productive intervention.

Publications:

Closing Space for
Civil Society and
Democratic Dissent

In recent years, a growing number of governments around the world have stepped up attacks against democratic dissent, including attacks on Non-Governmental Organisations (NGOs). Certain governments have been restricting civil society space which has affected citizens’ rights to engage in democratic dissent. In addition to them, non-government entities such as businesses, private militias, religious groups, and even ordinary citizens have also been contributing to this disturbing trend.

The NGOs and other civil society actors in these countries have increasingly become the target of public vilification, hostile legislation, arbitrary enforcement, surveillance, and in more extreme cases, freedom of movement restrictions, intimidation and arrest.

These measures significantly interfere with the ability of NGOs and other civil society actors to function effectively, continue to facilitate citizen engagement, and protect people’s rights and their access to information and justice.

Some highlights:

  1. Organizations working at the local and national level play the main role in pushing back against the tide of politics that seeks to undermine civil society. At the same time, INCLO believes that grassroot initiatives need to be supported by —although not be dependent on— international solidarity.

    To show solidarity, INCLO has developed a set of standard strategies that can be used as guidelines by NGOs tackling restrictive governmental actions that they are confronted with at the national level.

    Gaining Ground: A Framework for Developing Strategies and Tactics in Response to Governmental Attacks on NGOs formulates possible responses to each of the five identified threats that have been emerging as a global pattern.

    The publication draws on the first-hand experiences of different organizations, including some of INCLO’s 13 members that work on issues related to civil liberties and human rights around the world.

Publications:

  • Gaining Ground: A Framework for Developing Strategies and Tactics in Response to Governmental Attacks on NGOs
    Gaining Ground: A Framework for Developing Strategies and Tactics in Response to Governmental Attacks on NGOs
    English PDF