Freedom of assembly, sometimes used interchangeably with the freedom of association, is the individual right or ability of people to come together and collectively express, promote, pursue, and defend their ideas. The right to freedom of association is recognized as a human right, a political right and a civil liberty.
The terms freedom of assembly and freedom of association may be used to distinguish between the freedom to assemble in public places and the freedom to join an association. Freedom of assembly is often used in the context of the right to protest, while freedom of association is used in the context of labor rights and in the Constitution of the United States is interpreted to mean both the freedom to assemble and the freedom to join an association.
The United States Constitution explicitly provides for 'the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances' in the First Amendment.
Human rights instruments
The freedom of assembly is written about in the following human rights instruments:
- Universal Declaration of Human Rights – Article 20
- International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights – Article 21
- European Convention on Human Rights – Article 11
- American Convention on Human Rights – Article 15
Examples of the national and regional constitutions recognizing the freedom of assembly are:
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- Guidelines on Freedom of Peaceful Assembly OSCE/ODIHR, 2007
- Guidelines on Freedom of Peaceful Assembly (2nd edition) Venice Commission and OSCE/ODIHR, 2010
Note: What is considered a human right is controversial and not all the topics listed are universally accepted as human rights.