Facilitating the Right to Freedom of Peaceful Assembly
Submitting InstitutionQueen's University Belfast
Unit of AssessmentAnthropology and Development Studies
Summary Impact TypeLegal
Research Subject Area(s)
Law and Legal Studies: Law, Other Law and Legal Studies
Summary of the impact
This case study focuses on the right to assemble and to protest through
International human rights' law. It has impacted upon judicial rulings of
human rights' compliant approaches to monitoring and policing peaceful
protest. Sustained research with the Organisation for Security and
Co-operation in Europe's Office of Democratic Institutions and Human
Rights (ODIHR) has increased national and international understandings of
and respect for one of the fundamental human freedoms through the
development of the Guidelines on Freedom of Peaceful Assembly (Jarman et
al. 2010). These guidelines are increasingly recognised as international
soft law standards and they have been used by international and national
human rights' organisations throughout eastern Europe and the south
Caucasus including the United Nations. The beneficiaries of this research
impact are governments and NGOs working across eastern Europe, the south
Caucasus and central Asia. They include Amnesty International, Human
Rights' Watch, Helsinki Foundation and the International Foundation for
Human Rights (FIDH).
Jarman's research on public assemblies began in the early 1990s and was
published as Material Conflicts (1997), winner of the Katherine
Briggs Award from the Folklore Society in 1997. His research association
with the Unit dates to the mid-90s, and has been sustained ever since
through co-authorship and collaborative grant applications with staff
members and as a Category C submission to RAE. In 1995, his research
changed direction in response to growing national tensions, becoming
increasingly focused on socio-legal matters of regulation and management
of contested public events. Fieldwork involved personal observation at
numerous public gatherings along with extensive interviews with the public
and police. The research critically analysed how the right to assemble was
being utilised and policed, producing recommendations that have impacted
on public policy, institutional practice and understandings of the role of
human rights in social transformation.
In 1997, Jarman undertook a comparative study on the management of
assemblies in ten jurisdictions: Scotland, England, Ireland, USA, Canada,
South Africa, Italy, France, Israel and Palestine (funded by the Community
Relations Council, £15,000). This was followed in 1998 by a comparative,
two-year practical research project on the policing of demonstrations and
public order in South Africa, Belgium and Northern Ireland (funded by the
Police Authority for Northern Ireland, £60,000). This work focused on
developing an international comparative understanding of the issues of
implementing human rights and, in particular, the role of the police in
The published findings of Jarman's study of human rights and public
assembly conducted in 2001 for the Northern Ireland Human Rights
Commission were presented at a conference in Warsaw in 2004 organised by
the Office of Democratic Institutions and Human Rights, part of the
Organisation for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE). He was
subsequently invited by them to participate in a working group to draft
guidelines on freedom of peaceful assembly. In 2007, following the
publication of the Guidelines, Jarman was invited to chair the newly
constituted `Expert Panel on Freedom of Peaceful Assembly'
Jarman's research with ODIHR has involved fieldwork and critical analysis
of law and practice relating to freedom of assembly across Europe and
countries of the former Soviet Union. It has highlighted issues around the
use of permit systems, a lack of respect for spontaneous assemblies,
excessive use of force and a lack of awareness and accountability for
human rights' principles internationally. He has conducted research on
human rights' violations in many countries, including, Belarus, Russia,
Ukraine, Armenia, Georgia, Kazakhstan, as well as the UK, France and the
USA. The research has provided an evidence base for work with human
rights' groups and it has impacted upon governments and police forces by
changing laws, attitudes and actions in implementing this fundamental
The initial text of the Guidelines on Freedom of Peaceful Assembly
was published in English and Russian in 2007 and since 2008 its
recommendations have been widely promoted and disseminated as a guide to
best practice internationally. The book has been translated into Arabic,
Armenian, French, Georgian and Romanian. A revised and extended edition
was published in 2010 and a third edition is under preparation. OSCE's
Head of Democratization has noted that the guidelines have `helped shape
public opinion and policy', (pers. comm.).
The research has also resulted in the development and delivery of a
programme that trains human rights' groups to carry out field research to
monitor, analyse and report on how freedom of assembly is being addressed
in different countries. This training was initially based on ethnographic
fieldwork methods developed by Jarman in Ireland, South Africa and the USA
in the late 1990s, and has been revised based on his further research, in
particular, in Armenia and Moldova between 2007 and 2009. In 2011,
Jarman's research on managing protests was produced as a Handbook on
Monitoring Peaceful Assembly by OSCE/ODIHR.
References to the research
(1). Jarman, N. (1997) Material Conflicts. Oxford, Berg. (Winner
of the Katherine Briggs Award from the Folklore Society, 1997)
(2). Hamilton, M. N. Jarman and D. Bryan (2001) Parades, Protests and
Policing. Belfast, Northern Ireland Human Rights Commission.
(3). Jarman, N. & M. Hamilton (2009) Protecting Peaceful Protest: The
OSCE/ODIHR and Freedom of Peaceful Assembly. Journal of Human Rights
in Practice Vol.1 No.2: 208-235.
(4). Jarman, N. et al. (2010) Guidelines on Freedom of Peaceful
Assembly, Warsaw, OSCE.
(5). S. Ostaf & N. Jarman (2010) Policy Options for Improvement
of Assembly: Policing Management in Moldova. Chisinau, Resource
Center for Human Rights (Credo).
(6). Jarman, N. (2011) Handbook on Monitoring Peaceful Assembly.
[a]. `Managing Disorder: Responding to Interface Violence'. Office of the
First Minister and Deputy First Minister (OFMDFM, 1999-2002), £60,000.
[b]. `Nothing Happened: Public Disorder during 2003'. Northern Ireland
Policing Board, £10,000.
[c] `Managing Disputes over Parades'. Community Relations Council
[d] `International Standard in Policing Assemblies'. OSCE Mission to
Moldova (2010), €10,000.
[e] `Community Attitudes to Public Order Policing'. Police Service
Northern Ireland (PSNI 2012), £22,000.
Details of the impact
The research has had a range of international governance, human rights
and legal opinion impacts. The work of evidence gathering through
monitoring freedom of assembly is designed to produce outcomes that will
enable wider engagement with the relevant state authorities, particularly
police. It aims to have a positive impact on the way that assemblies are
controlled and monitored by police and has involved the following impacts
4.1 International Governance Impacts
In 2007, the ODIHR working group was transformed into a standing Expert
Panel on Freedom of Peaceful Assembly which Jarman was invited to chair,
initially for a five-year period. This appointment has been extended for a
further five years (2012-2016). The Panel has had ongoing responsibility
to promote and update the Guidelines of Freedom of Peaceful Assembly
and to improve public and legal understandings of and respect for this
human right. The initial draft of the Guidelines was co-authored by Jarman
for the OSCE/ODIHR and in 2008 it was adopted by the Council of Europe's
European Commission for Democracy through Law (Venice Commission). The
ODIHR Expert Panel and the Venice Commission continue to work together on
issues relating to freedom of assembly, particularly on joint legal
Opinions, as well as further editions of the Guidelines. The Head of the
Human Rights Department of OSCE has noted that, `Mr. Jarman has
strengthened ODIHR's capacity to promote freedom of peaceful assembly and
contributed, also directly, to improved legal frameworks, strengthened
monitoring capacity of civil society and better practice of policing
assemblies in a number of OSCE participating States' .
4.2 Impacts upon Human Rights' Law
The Guidelines of Freedom of Peaceful Assembly have been cited by
the European Court of Human Rights as an authoritative source, most
recently in the case of Vyerentsov v. Ukraine (App.No 20372/11) in April
2013; and also by the Polish Constitutional Court (case no 105/6/A/2008,
in Polish). In both cases, the Guidelines provided essential research
evidence of best practices and key principles of freedom of assembly. The
courts made definitive rulings on the basis of the guidelines as the
criteria for maintaining international legal standards. They have also
been widely disseminated and cited in legal proceedings in other countries
(including Belarus and Russia) to promote understanding of issues relating
to freedom of assembly. As part of this process, they have been translated
into Russian, French and Arabic (to facilitate engagement with the Arab
Spring countries) and also into Armenian and Romanian. The Head of Legal
and Judicial Reform Advice in Armenia has advised that Jarman `made an
important and significant contribution' to the Guidelines which were used
as the foundational material for `drafting and adopting the new Armenian
Law on Freedom of Assemblies in 2011' .
The Guidelines were also widely cited as an authoritative source by the
UN Special Rapporteur on the rights to freedom of peaceful assembly and of
association, in his first annual report published in 2012 (A/HRC/20/27) in
which he noted the Guidelines as being, `the most advanced set of good
practices available' (see footnote 7 of his report) .
4.3 Impact through Legal Opinions and Human Rights' Monitoring
Jarman's research for the ODIHR Panel on Freedom of Assembly has also
- Preparing legal Opinions on draft or existing laws relating to freedom
of assembly upon request from a representative of the government in the
relevant country. Since 2008, Jarman has co-authored Opinions on laws
for Armenia (June 2008 and December 2012); Sarajevo Canton (June 2010);
Serbia (October 2010); Ukraine (October 2010 and October 2011); Kyrgyz
Republic (May 2009 and December 2010); Belarus (March 2012); Poland (May
2012) and Tunisia (December 2012 and April 2013). In a number of cases,
the Opinions have resulted in amendments to draft or existing laws as
- In April 2008, Jarman attended meetings with the Armenian government
at which he discussed changes that had been made to the law on
assemblies following large protests in March 2008. This advice resulted
in a further Opinion paper to the government which, in direct response,
agreed to repeal sections of the law and amend others, in particular,
providing for spontaneous or non-notified assemblies which had hitherto
been considered unlawful.
- In November 2011, at a public event in Kiev, Jarman presented findings
of an ODIHR Opinion on a draft law on assemblies prepared by the
Ukrainian government. Partly in response to the critical Opinion, the
draft law was subsequently withdrawn and a third draft law text was
introduced into Parliament in July 2013.
- Jarman's work with ODIHR on amendments to the Polish law on assemblies
in May 2012 resulted in an Opinion that led to a number of changes to
the draft law. These changes related to the removal of an increase in
the notification period prior to gatherings taking place and clarifying
the specific responsibilities and liabilities of the organiser in order
to make the law compliant with international human rights' standards.
- In 2010-11, Jarman provided support and guidance to a working group
involving civil society representatives and government officials that
was set up by the Armenian Ombudsman to prepare a new law on Freedom of
Assembly for the Republic of Armenia. This resulted in a more liberal
law which was designed to comply with European standards and which came
into force in April 2011.
- Jarman's comparative research on the monitoring of human rights in
South Africa, USA and Ireland led in 2008 to the development of a
research and training programme on monitoring freedom of assembly for
ODIHR. Jarman has since delivered this on behalf of ODIHR to human
rights' organisations in Moldova (2008); Armenia (2009); Kazakhstan
(2010); Kyrgystan (2011); Georgia (2011) and Serbia (2011). Research-led
training was designed to build capacity among civil society
organisations and was the prelude to a period (of between six months and
a year) of formal monitoring of assemblies to gather data for a
subsequent report. In each country the findings of the monitoring were
published in a research report, which was co-drafted by Jarman.
Subsequently, the research reports were used by OSCE/ODIHR and the
national partner to begin a process of engagement with the government,
the police and municipal authorities as follows:
- In Moldova, the monitoring report was used to engage with the
municipal authority in the capital Chisinau to improve their
understanding and respect for the law; it was also used to engage with
the police as described in point 5 below.
- In Armenia, the monitoring report provided an evidence base that was
used to inform the process of preparing the current law on assemblies
(as outlined in 2 above). It was also used as a means of engaging with
the municipality in Yerevan and the national police. The OSCE Mission in
Yerevan subsequently began a programme working with security forces in
monitoring and policing public assemblies.
- In Kyrgyzstan, the monitoring report fed into (a) the wider process of
reforming the law on assemblies and (b) enabling the OSCE Mission in
Bishkek to work with civil society groups to increase awareness of how
this fundamental freedom was being respected.
- In 2011 and 2012, Jarman's work impacted directly on capacity
building. He involved members of ODIHR staff in his research protocols
and practices enabling them to lead their own research programme in
relation to two specific types of assembly: Pride events and global
summits. This has resulted in an ODIHR report Monitoring of Freedom
of Peaceful Assembly in Selected OSCE Participating States (May 2011 - June 2012).
ODIHR has used the findings of this report to inform
their engagement with selected states and, in particular, with the
police (see point 7 below). Further research-based training of ODIHR
staff in March 2013 was undertaken to support a second cycle of assembly
monitoring which began in May 2013.
- In Moldova, the research reports produced by the monitoring of
assemblies began a process of engagement with the police which resulted
in a 2010 research and training project on public order policing run by
CREDO, a Moldovan human rights organisation, and on which Jarman acted
as expert consultant.
- In Armenia, Jarman's research undertaken on monitoring with the police
was adopted by the OSCE Mission in Armenia from 2009, which employed a
former UK police officer to develop a training programme in order to
address some of the issues raised by the research.
- Jarman's overall research on monitoring led to a further OSCE/ODIHR
programme initiative to produce a Handbook on Policing Public
Assemblies in March 2013. Jarman is a member of the project
advisory group. This guidance for police commanders is designed to
enable them to police assemblies under human rights' compliant
4.4 Impacts on UN Special Rapporteur Reporting
Research on freedom of assembly has led to changes in international legal
facilitation and judicial rulings through advice given to UN Special
Rapporteurs, as follows:
- In 2011, Jarman provided advice and assistance to the Special
Rapporteur on extrajudicial, summary or arbitrary executions, South
Africa for the latter's annual report to the United Nations which
focused on the use of force during public assemblies, (UN Report:
A/HRC/17/28). Jarman's research was acknowledged in footnote 5 of the
- In November 2012, Jarman was invited to Kenya to meet the Special
Rapporteur on the rights to freedom of peaceful assembly and association
to discuss and help frame issues to be included in his 2013 annual
report (UN Report A/HRC/23/39). The Rapporteur noted that, `The work
that he and his colleagues do in the OSCE is clearly cutting edge' .
- In January 2013, Jarman facilitated a number of meetings for the
Kenyan Special Rapporteur on the rights to freedom of peaceful assembly
and of association as part of the latter's country visit to the UK. For
example, this included arranging meetings with members of local
communities to ensure that their views and concerns were reflected in
his report (UN Report A/HRC/23/39/Add.1) following outbreaks of violence
in a range of cities in the UK. In his first report to the Human Rights
Council in 2012, the Special Rapporteur noted that these were `the most
advanced' Guidelines available for consultation .
- Nationally, the Guidelines have been used by organisations and
political leaders in their efforts to resolve disputes over public
assembly. For example, in 2013, the Police Service of Northern Ireland
used the Guidelines in their management of the protests around the G8
summit. The Guidelines have also been cited by The UK's Joint Committee
on Human Rights in their report Demonstrating Respect for Rights
(2008-09) and by The Equality and Human Rights Commission in the Human
Rights Review 2012.
Sources to corroborate the impact
. Head of Human Rights Department, OSCE/ODIHR, Warsaw, Poland.
. Team Leader of GIZ, `Legal and Judicial Reform Advice in South
Caucasus Program', Yerevan, South Armenia.
. UN Special Rapporteur on extrajudicial, summary or arbitrary
executions, South Africa
. UN Special Rapporteur on the rights to freedom of peaceful assembly,
.Co-Chair of the Co-ordinating Council of the International Youth
Human Rights Movement.