Panel discussion on the promotion and protection of human rights in the context of peaceful protests (29.09.2021)

48th session of the Human Rights Council
Panel discussion on the promotion and protection of human rights 
in the context of peaceful protests 

Statement by Lithuania on behalf of the Nordic-Baltic countries
delivered by the Chargé d'affaires Mr Donatas Tamulaitis

29 September 2021

Thank you Chair.

I have the honour to deliver this statement on behalf of the Nordic-Baltic countries Denmark, Estonia, Finland, Iceland, Latvia, Norway, Sweden and my own country Lithuania.

We thank the distinguished panelists for their contributions to this important discussion. 

The rights to freedom of peaceful assembly, of association and of expression, both online and offline, are indispensable pillars of democratic governance and open societies. There is no doubt that peaceful protests contribute to the full enjoyment of civil, political, economic, social and cultural rights. 

Peaceful protests are increasingly met with repression, including excessive use of force, arbitrary detentions, torture and enforced disappearances. This is unacceptable. Protesters, human rights defenders, journalists and other media workers are facing the risk of assaults and reprisals. Combined with the challenges of Covid-19 pandemic, it results in an even more shrinking civil society space. 
In times when physical assemblies may be restricted due to crises or emergencies, it is all the more necessary to ensure the unhindered access to Internet for everyone. The growing trend of internet shutdowns and the misuse of new technologies ahead of critical democratic moments such as elections and protests, is particularly concerning. 

Technology should be used to reinforce inclusive participation instead of restricting it. Our success in “building back better” depends on the ability to secure people’s participation and trust. Therefore, the Nordic-Baltic counties call upon all States to promote a safe and enabling environment to all individuals and groups to exercise their rights to freedom of peaceful assembly, of expression and of association. 
Distinguished panelists, how do we ensure accountability for restrictions online, including internet shutdowns? What possible steps would help to maintain and strengthen the openness of the civic space?