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.



Since the Snowden revelations, it has become apparent that governments are conducting mass surveillance and data retention in collaboration with other countries and private communications companies. In particular, it has become clear that loopholes in old legislation have been exploited, demonstrating that surveillance legislation in many countries desperately needs updating. In some places, the trend has been to bring forward new legislation granting expanded surveillance powers without adequate safeguards. In addition, oversight mechanisms have been shown to be weak, and transparency and accountability in intelligence activities has been lacking.

Against this background, it is necessary for human rights organisations to work together to safeguard privacy rights in our respective countries and globally so as to fight against transnational state cooperation aimed at monitoring large sections of the population.

Our goals are:

  1. To push for higher standards of protection of informational privacy rights through transnational and international advocacy, while coordinating efforts at the national level against mass surveillance
  2. To place limits on mass surveillance and enhance the protection of the right to privacy
  3. To promote encryption and to educate the public on the tools available to protect online informational privacy
  4. To advocate for strong regulation and oversight of intelligence agencies
  5. To uncover information-sharing agreements and strategies among governments
  6. To establish international and regional standards on the right to privacy by encouraging UN bodies and regional organisms to address and examine the issue

Some highlights:

  1. Six INCLO members participated in a strategic litigation case in the UK's Investigatory Powers Tribunal (IPT) challenging the Government Communications Headquarters’ Tempora programme, which produced several rulings with transnational implications, including a landmark judgment from February 2015 that found that UK-US data sharing was unlawful prior to December 2014. This marked the first time the Tribunal ruled against the agencies in its 15-year history. In another ruling from June 2015, the Tribunal found that GCHQ acted unlawfully in the way that it handled intercepted private communications of INCLO member LRC. This information and these rulings were very significant in that they forced some acknowledgment of the threat to democracy posed by transnational mass digital surveillance, and of its scale and scope.
  2. HCLU with INCLO’s support launched a website aimed at promoting privacy-enhancing technologies. The website ( and its English version ( seek to raise awareness about the importance of protecting privacy online, providing practical guidance, tools and tips for using privacy-enhancing technologies, and building a community of users of these tools. It also serves as an ongoing resource for public education and training on digital privacy.
  3. INCLO’s members participated in activities calling on state delegations of the UN Human Rights Council to approve the creation of the Special Rapporteur on the right to privacy, who was subsequently appointed.


International Intelligence Sharing Project

  1. The INCLO International Intelligence Sharing Project aims at exposing the secret rules that govern how intelligence agencies cooperate.
  2. Read more

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.


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.


  • 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