The Botswana High Court ruling on the right of gays and lesbians to register an association was listed as the international highlight of 2014 in a report by the United Nations Special Rappateur recapping “monumental” events for 2014. UN Special Rapporteur Maina Kiai this week released his mandate’s first ever year-end report, which reviews the events of 2014 from the perspective of assembly and association rights, and the LEGABIBO case was one of only two bright spots alongside Tunisia’s progress in transitioning from its 2011 popular revolution in a gloomy year that was clogged by negative reports. The report serves as both a first draft of history for the events of 2014 and yearbook of his mandate’s activities.
“It is still too early to tell just how 2014 will be remembered from the perspective of assembly and association rights: The year of the protest; the year of the revolution, the year of shrinking space,” Kiai writes in the report. “But one thing is certain: It will be a year that we remember.” The report notes that 2014 proved to be a year of monumental developments in the area of assembly and association rights, though the direction of change was rarely positive.
Maina Kai wrote that, “There were a few positive developments, such as Tunisia’s progress in transitioning from its 2011 popular revolution and a progressive ruling on the rights of LGBTI associations in Botswana. The year also produced countless stories demonstrating the remarkable courage of activists worldwide who stood up for their assembly and association rights. But it was clear by the end of 2014 that their fight is not over. The world continues to need their courage: Civic space is shrinking everywhere, with no apparent end to the trend in sight.
LEGABIBO, the country’s gay and lesbian group won a landmark legal case in the country’s High Court, allowing it to be officially registered. The judge ruled that the government had acted unconstitutionally in blocking the group, Legabibo.
The UN Special Rappoteur further stated that Burkina Faso, Cambodia, Thailand, Ukraine and Venezuela all witnessed massive political and social upheaval spurred by popular protests ÔÇô but in some instances, these movements were followed by increased restrictions on assembly and association rights. Civil society organizations across the world continued to face a wave of restrictive new laws, often targeting disfavored groups specifically or civil society generally. In Nigeria, for example, new legislation banned all associations dealing with LGBTI issues, while Egypt introduced a new law to give the government veto power over civil society’s activities. Meanwhile, attacks and harassment of human rights defenders engaged in civil society work continued virtually unchecked.
Chinese human rights defender Cao Shunli died in custody after being arrested on her way to the UN Human Rights Council. A host of Azerbaijani activists were imprisoned for their human rights work, including 2014 Vaclav Havel award winner Mr. Anar Mammadli. And in Bahrain, Nabeel Rajab found himself again detained over his online criticism of the government, just months after being released from a two-year prison sentence for a similar offense. This report marks Special Rapporteur Maina Kiai’s first “yearbook” of assembly and association rights ÔÇô a year-end summary of the major developments of 2014, including important news events and the key activities of his mandate.