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After an urgent debate, PACE deplores ‘recent cases of excessive use of force’ to disperse demonstrators

Strasbourg, 27.06.2013 – The Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe (PACE) has deplored “recent cases of excessive use of force to disperse demonstrators” and reiterated its call on authorities to ensure that police action, where necessary, remains proportionate.

Following an urgent debate on “Popular protest and challenges to freedom of assembly, media and speech”, based on a report by Arcadio Díaz Tejera (Spain, SOC), the Assembly also called on governments to draw up clear instructions on the use of tear gas (pepper spray) and to ban its use in confined spaces.

States should investigate the use of excessive or disproportionate force by law enforcement and impose sanctions on those responsible, and refrain from imposing sanctions on media outlets covering popular protests, the parliamentarians said. Freedom of assembly and demonstration should be guaranteed in line with the case law of the European Court of Human Rights.

Referring to the recent protests in Turkey, the Assembly deplored the deaths of four people, including a police officer, and the injuries to thousands of people. It said: “In dozens of Turkish towns, hundreds of thousands of people expressed their disagreement with the attitude of public authorities and took part in demonstrations.” It also cited the examples of the demonstrations against same-sex marriage in Paris and the May riots which took place in the suburbs of Stockholm following the killing of an immigrant by police.

The parliamentarians invited the Secretary General of the Council of Europe to consider drawing up guidelines in respect of human rights in the policing of demonstrations.