Amnesty launches global protest repression map, revealing UK is ‘worse than average’ on empowerment rights

'The UK is rapidly aligning itself with a host of repressive governments we have previously condemned for the way they crack down on protesters, dissent and fundamental freedoms.'

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Amnesty International has launched a new ‘Interactive Protest Map,’ exposing the shocking rise in state-sanctioned repression of protests across the world. The UK was found to be ‘performing worse than average on empowerment rights.’

The map – launched September 19 – is part of Amnesty International’s flagship global campaign Protect the Protest, which draws attention to the human rights violations being perpetrated against protestors around the world. The campaign shows how governments regard and treat protests as a threat rather than a right. The map pinpoints the worse nations for protest repression, and the UK doesn’t fare well.

Citing the 2022 Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Act and the 2023 Public Order Act, Amnesty says the “UK’s fundamental rights to peaceful protest are rapidly disappearing as police forces begin to use the vast range of new anti-protest powers given to them.”

“The Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Act 2022 increased police and ministerial powers to restrict further the right to freedom of peaceful assembly, including new policing powers to implement restrictions on the grounds of noise and nuisance, which risk being disproportionate.

“The Public Order Act 2023 criminalises a wide range of peaceful protest activities, expands police stop-and-search powers and removes the rights to peaceful assembly for individuals subjected to specific protest banning orders,” the human rights charity continued.

Amnesty added how in June 2023, the UK government pushed through further restrictions to protest rights. “These measures were re-introduced as regulations having previously been voted out of the Public Order Act,” says the charity, adding: “Restrictions are so broad in scope, that it gives police almost unlimited powers to curb peaceful protests. Anyone wishing to march in solidarity along a road, stand in a public space or on a pavement holding placards could be caught within the scope of the new regulations.”

Amnesty’s research pulled in data by the Human Rights Measurement Initiative’s (HRMI) 2023 Rights Tracker, which found the UK scores 5.6 out of ten on the right to assembly and association. The score suggests that Britain is performing worse than average on empowerment rights.

In response to the findings, Oliver Feely-Sprague, Amnesty International UK military, security and police programme director, said: “It’s deeply disturbing how far the UK government has gone to crush our rights and criminalise so many aspects of peaceful protest.

“This is a bleak new era for protest rights in the UK. The police have, in effect, been given licence to close down almost any protest they wish.

“The UK is rapidly aligning itself with a host of repressive governments we have previously condemned for the way they crack down on protesters, dissent and fundamental freedoms.

“We can only hope that future governments see this for what it is and repeal this insidious package of laws being inflicted on the country.”

Gabrielle Pickard-Whitehead is a contributing editor to Left Foot Forward

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