Article 11 of the European Convention on Human Rights provides that:
1. Everyone has the right to freedom of peaceful assembly and to freedom of association with others, including the right to form and to join trade unions for the protection of his interests.
2. No restrictions shall be placed on the exercise of these rights other than such as are prescribed by law and are necessary in a democratic society in the interests of national security or public safety, for the prevention of disorder or crime, for the protection of health or morals or for the protection of the rights and freedoms of others. This article shall not prevent the imposition of lawful restrictions on the exercise of these rights by members of the armed forces, of the police or of the administration of the State.
There’s an interesting document produced by the Human Rights Review here all about Article 11, which discusses how the UK may not be meeting its legal obligations to allow peaceful freedom of association, particularly with regards to protests.
According to this document:
Article 11 imposes two different types of obligations on the state:
• a negative obligation, which means that public authorities must not prevent, hinder or restrict peaceful assembly except to the extent allowed by Article 11(2), and must not arbitrarily interfere with the right to freedom of association
• a positive obligation, so that in certain circumstances public authorities are under a duty to take reasonable steps to protect those who want to exercise their right to peaceful assembly. The state must also take reasonable and appropriate measures to secure the right to freedom of association under domestic law.
The document also says,
Article 11 protects the right to peaceful assembly. This means that, unless there is clear evidence that the organisers or participants will use, advocate or incite imminent violence, public authorities have a positive duty to take reasonable steps to protect peaceful assemblies.
The right to peaceful assembly is not taken away even if violent counter demonstrations are possible, or if extremists with violent intentions who are not part of the organising group join the protest. Similarly a protest does not fall outside the protection guaranteed by Article 11 merely because there is a risk of disorder that is beyond the control of the organisers.
Do radical feminists not have the right to hold our political beliefs and gather peacefully with other like-minded women? Where is the evidence that radical feminists promote violence against others, or that we are gathering with the intent to share violent rhetoric which will result in crimes being committed against others? Merely having hurt feelings over some of the things radical feminists think is not grounds for denying our human right to have a peaceful political gathering. The law actually has an obligation to protect our right to freedom of political association, and one has to ask what the consequences will be for women and girls all around the world if a powerful western nation like the UK declares that politically marginalised women who are survivors of multiple forms of violence and oppression DO NOT have the human right to gather peacefully with one another in order to build political networks and discuss strategies to end male violence against women. What a wonderful precedent to set.