UK: Israel and Palestine protest policing must respect human rights
‘Any interference with freedom of expression must be strictly necessary and proportionate, and in full accordance with the law’ - Sacha Deshmukh
With further protests related to the crisis in Israel and the Occupied Palestinian Territories set to take place in central London and elsewhere around the country this weekend, Sacha Deshmukh, Amnesty International UK’s Chief Executive, said:
“Two weeks into the latest terrible upsurge of violence in Israel and the Occupied Palestinian Territories, protests around the UK have taken place and are set to continue during the coming days and weeks.
“It is essential that the police and local authorities fulfil their duty to facilitate peaceful demonstrations and allow people to express their concerns about this terrible human rights crisis - this is the mark of a free and fair society.
“The police must ensure they do not unduly restrict or otherwise infringe on freedom of expression. This includes any actions taken in relation to legitimate symbols - such as flags or keffiyehs - or chants at demonstrations.
“Any interference with freedom of expression must be strictly necessary and proportionate, and in full accordance with the law.
“This is all the more important in light of the introduction of draconian police powers that restrict the right to peaceful protest.
“While the police have a legitimate and important role in keeping protesters and others safe, it’s vital that they’re able to fulfil their independent functions without undue pressure from Government ministers and others.
“The use of counter-terrorism policies in response to this crisis must be strictly proportionate.
“Letters that have gone out to vice chancellors and to schools and college leaders by the Education Secretary - which includes reference to the highly-criticised Prevent Duty - should not be used as a pretext to unduly restrict freedom of expression or association in schools and colleges.
“Given reports of a surge in suspected antisemitic and Islamophobic hate crimes in recent days, it’s of the utmost importance that all politicians - particularly Government ministers - are responsible in their use of language.
“It’s crucial that all public figures avoid using divisive rhetoric which could fuel further tension and possible violence, while at the same time having a chilling effect on the right to peaceful protest.”