The right to freedom of peaceful assembly and the right to free association are intrinsic to any democratic society. They allow citizens to come together either on an informal or formal basis by creating or joining associations or by organizing peaceful gatherings in order to express their views on matters of public concern.
Nonetheless, the implementation of OSCE commitments related to these two freedoms through national legislation and practices still poses challenges in some participating States, which means that much still needs to be done in the OSCE area before these two freedoms can be exercised effectively.
ODIHR, usually in conjunction with the Council of Europe's Venice Commission, reviews draft and existing laws and - when so requested by OSCE participating States and OSCE field operations - prepares legal commentaries, with recommendations. These can be found on ODIHR's legislationline.org database. The reviews analyze draft laws in terms of their compatibility with relevant international and regional standards and OSCE commitments. They also draw upon relevant case law and international good practice relating to freedom of association.
ODIHR conducts capacity-building activities aimed at enabling civil society representatives, including human rights activists, to improve their knowledge of standards on freedom of assembly and association while also enhancing their skills in monitoring and reporting on these issues. Such skills are vital when engaging in dialogue with national authorities on ways to strengthen the protection and promotion of freedom of assembly. ODIHR also monitors assemblies across the OSCE area with the aim of collecting information to share with the responsible authorities about ways to improve legislation and practices in this field for citizens. Finally, ODIHR conducts training for OSCE field operations to increase their capacity in assembly monitoring and reporting.
Under the auspices of ODIHR, a Panel of Experts on Freedom of Peaceful Assembly was established in 2006. The Panel acts as an advisory and consultative body to ODIHR on the promotion of freedom of peaceful assembly in the OSCE area.The Panel consists of 10 independent experts from OSCE participating States selected on the basis of their expertise, experience, integrity and objectivity.
The Panel represents a unique resource in terms of legal expertise and practical knowledge on assemblies. The expertise of the Panel members combines knowledge of a variety of legal systems with a strong professional interest in the freedom of assembly as scholars, practitioners, and/or human rights advocates. They provide significant collective input into ODIHR’s legal opinions on draft legislation and follow-up discussions of these drafts and recommendations with relevant national stakeholders.
ODIHR has developed tools providing policymakers, legislators and civil society with the necessary resources to advocate the protection of the freedoms of assembly and association, as well as to initiate and/or review legislation and practice in this field.
The Guidelines on Freedom of Peaceful Assembly, published in co-operation with the Council of Europe’s Venice Commission, draw on examples of good practices from national legislation in OSCE participating States and the case law of the European Court of Human Rights to illustrate existing legislative options. They identify parameters for implementation consistent with international standards and illustrate key principles with examples of good practice from individual states.
The Handbook on Monitoring Freedom of Peaceful Assembly serves as a guide for groups and organizations that undertake independent monitoring of assemblies in their countries. It is based on established good practices in monitoring assemblies as well as on ODIHR-supported training programmes.
The Office has also developed Associationline.org, a web-based interactive guide to freedom of association for government authorities and civil society. The database provides direct access to key principles and international standards relating to freedom of association, with a special focus on non-governmental organizations. It brings together relevant jurisprudence and offers examples of good practices of legislation relating to non-governmental organizations from across the OSCE region.