Amnesty challenges OFMDM on public assemblies bill

Amnesty International has written to Northern Ireland’s First and Deputy First Minister outlining concerns over the proposed new legislation regulating parades and public assembly: The Public Assemblies, Parades and Protests Bill (Northern Ireland).

The Office of First Minister and Deputy First Minister have proposed legislation to extend Public Assemblies legislation designed for contentious parades to any and all gatherings of over 50 people. This proposed legislation will generally make it necessary for organisers to give 37 days notice for public gatherings of 50 people or more.

This legislation is potentially in breach of Article 11 of the European Convention on Human Rights, which guarantees citizens the right to peaceful assembly. It has been met with widespread opposition and Amnesty International is calling upon OFMDFM to address a wide range of human rights issues.

Patrick Corrigan, Northern Ireland Programme Director of Amnesty International, said:

“The proposed legislation represents a potential blow to the rights of Northern Ireland's citizens, guaranteed under the European Convention on Human Rights.  

“Further, the proposals could deter the exercise of freedom of assembly and could lead to the criminalisation of a large number of persons who organise or participate in social, commercial or campaigning activities. In particular, we are concerned with the potential extension of the notification period and the adjudication process.

“We challenge the OFMDFM to demonstrate how the proposals are deemed to be in the valid public interest or ‘in the interest of national security, public safety, the prevention of disorder or crime, the protection of health  or morals or the protection of the rights and freedoms of others’, as set out in the European Convention on Human Rights.”

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