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UN expert criticises proposed law on protests

A new law on demonstrations which Genevans will be voting on this weekend, is a threat to basic freedoms, an independent United Nations expert says.

Maina Kiai, the UN Special Rapporteur on the rights to freedom of peaceful assembly and of association, warned in a statement issued on Friday that a number of provisions in the proposed law were problematic.

If the changes are approved by voters, anyone who does not request authorisation to demonstrate, or who does not respect the content of the authorisation and does not comply with police injunctions is liable for a fine of up to SFr100,000 ($100,000).

“Such an amount is disproportionate, and would have a chilling effect on the enjoyment of the rights to freedom of peaceful assembly and of expression,” Kiai said.

“The exercise of fundamental freedoms should not be subject to a previous authorisation by the authorities,” he maintained, pointing out that this would prevent people from holding spontaneous peaceful assemblies.

Kiai also warned against the provision that organisers of demonstrations should be held responsible for any serious damage or casualties, even if they are not themselves at fault.

He further pointed out that the ban on anyone under the age of 18 from applying for permission to demonstrated is contrary to international law.

“Switzerland is leading important initiatives with respect to the promotion and protection of the right to freedom of peaceful assembly. The proposed changes to the law on demonstrations in the canton of Geneva are not in consonance with these positive efforts,” Kiai said.

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SWI - a branch of Swiss Broadcasting Corporation SRG SSR

SWI - a branch of Swiss Broadcasting Corporation SRG SSR