International Network of Civil Liberties Organizations

Protest Rights
and Policing

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


INCLO has published three reports:

  1. Defending Dissent: Towards State Practices that Protect and Promote the Rights to Protest, June 2018.

    INCLO published this report in partnership with the International Human Rights Clinic at the University of Chicago Law School (IHRC). The publication provides guidance on how to apply legal human rights principles in practice when policing protests. In addition, it offers an analysis of the existing laws and deployment tactics used by law enforcement. The research includes interviews with policing experts in eight countries and relies on the expertise of the INCLO member organizations on human rights and policing. Authorities can use the report as a toolkit when evaluating their existing policies, practices, and institutional mechanisms.

  2. Lethal in disguise: The health consequences of crowd control weapons, March 2016.

    INCLO published this report in partnership with Physicians for Human Rights. It aims to raise awareness about the misuse and abuse of crowd control weapons, their detrimental health effects and their impact on the meaningful enjoyment of the right to freedom of assembly and expression. It brings to light a wealth of new information about the impact of these weapons on the health of the protestors.

  3. Take back the streets: Repression and criminalization of protest around the world, October 2013.

    The report showcases contemporary examples of distinct state reactions to activism and protest in unique domestic contexts, brought forward by INCLO member organizations. The cases show instances of excessive use of force resulting in injury and death, as well as discriminatory treatment and criminalisation of social leaders. All the cases show the integral role played by civil society organisations in protecting people’s fundamental rights to freedom of assembly and expression.


  • Defending Dissent: Towards State Practices that Protect and Promote the Rights to Protest - Full Report
    Defending Dissent: Towards State Practices that Protect and Promote the Rights to Protest - Full Report
    English PDF
  • Defending Dissent: Towards State Practices that Protect and Promote the Rights to Protest - Executive Summary
    Defending Dissent: Towards State Practices that Protect and Promote the Rights to Protest - Executive Summary
    English PDF
  • Lethal in disguise
    Lethal in Disguise: The Health Consequences of Crowd-Control Weapons
    Read online English PDF Spanish PDF
  • Take back the streets
    Take Back the Streets: Repression and Criminalization of Protest around the World
    English PDF Spanish PDF Hungarian PDF

Surveillance and
Human Rights

In this digital age, governments, intelligence agencies and private companies across the globe can easily see where we're going, who we're talking to and what interests we have. Often harvested without our knowledge or consent, this personal information can be used to target us unfairly, influence our choices and suppress our voices when we express dissent.

People from all backgrounds experience these intrusions, which interfere with our fundamental rights to privacy, freedom of expression and freedom of association. However the effects are disproportionately felt by marginalised or activist populations, increasing inequalities.

INCLO brings together a global network of technologists, legal, and Surveillance and Human Rights experts. Our research and community engagement show how domestic laws and international treaties are slow to respond to these intrusions or are absent altogether. Our advocacy strives to establish and ensure human rights protections, both in legal frameworks and in practice.


  1. To research, educate, and litigate for the protection and enhancement of our rights and freedoms in the digital age at international and local levels.
  2. To advocate for strong oversight, transparency, and public disclosure about the way state and private actors alike access and use our personal information.


  1. Unanswered Questions (2018)

    INCLO filed coordinated Freedom of Information requests in 2017 to learn how intelligence sharing practices operate in our countries. Our report details responses, desk research, confidential interviews with officials and experiences in our 13 countries. We reveal ongoing insufficient laws, oversight and transparency governing these practices.

  2. OHCHR Submissions (2018)

    INCLO provided input to the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights report on human rights challenges relating to privacy in the digital age. We recommended that the Human Rights Committee issue a new General Comment on the right to privacy under Article 17 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights.

  3. Surveillance and Democracy (2016)

    Our report offers a ground-level view of some of the ways surveillance, and digital electronic surveillance in particular, is impacting on the lives of citizens and residents in INCLO countries.


  1. Intelligence Sharing Project

    INCLO members filed Freedom of Information (FOI) requests in our attempt to shine light on the intelligence sharing practices and agreements between different intelligence agencies around the world. This is the first multinational coalition demanding governments release information about practices shielded from accountability. Please see our report here on our findings to date.

    • Intelligence Sharing Project
      Freedom of Information Requests and responses
      Go to Page
  2. 10 NGOs v the United Kingdom

    Seven INCLO members filed complaints arguing that the UK’s historical bulk surveillance violated our rights to privacy and to free expression. In September 2018, the European Court of Human Rights agreed. And now we’ve sought a further ruling that gathering enormous quantities of data about a wide range of people can never be justified.

  3. Condemning the internet crackdown in Russia

    The Moscow court ban of the encrypted messaging service Telegram LLP is one in a series of attacks on people’s fundamental rights to privacy and freedom of expression in Russia. INCLO asked Google, Amazon, Microsoft, and Apple to condemn the ban and the wider internet crackdown in Russia.

  4. Surveillance Matters

    INCLO in partnership with our HCLU member created a website with free, ethical and open sourced tips on how to better protect your privacy and personal information protection online.

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)


  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.


Civic Space

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
  • Gaining Ground Brochure
    Gaining Ground - Brochure
    English PDF