See Our Work

Freedom of Expression, Association, and Assembly

In many countries, individuals are arrested or assaulted for exercising their legitimate right to participate in a peaceful gathering or protest, form associations, or exercise their right to speech. The Justice Defenders Program supports human rights defenders -- including journalists and labor activists -- that face retaliation for exposing human rights abuses.

See below for examples of the Program's public work on fundamental freedoms.


Angola: New Report urges President Joao Lourenço to drop all criminal charges against journalists

The Justice Defenders Program prepared a report on the apparent judicial harassment of human rights defender Musa Usman Ndamba. The Cameroonian human rights defender has appeared before the Cameroonian courts over 32 times, defending himself against allegations of criminal defamation filed by wealthy businessman and politician Baba Ahmadou Danpullo.


Amicus Curiae Brief on Criminal Defamation Laws in Burkina Faso

At the African Court on Human and Peoples’ Rights, the Justice Defenders Program’s pro bono lawyers successfully supported the participation of 17 regional human rights and media organizations as amici curiae (friends of the court) in a challenge to Burkina Faso’s criminal defamation law, a relic of its colonial days which has been used to target and silence criticism of public officials.


Cambodia: Report on Prosecution of Six Independent Trade Union Leaders

The treatment of labor union leaders by governmental authorities in Cambodia has a volatile history and has been the subject of concern by various international and regional authorities, including the International Labor Organization, the European Commission, and certain United Nations Special Rapporteurs. This report focuses on the prosecution of six labor union leaders who faced criminal charges in the aftermath of protests surrounding the 2013 National Assembly election results, which continued the 28-year reign of Prime Minister Hun Sen and his Cambodian People’s Party.


Cameroon: Ongoing Due Process Violations in Cases of Journalists Reporting on the Anglophone Crisis

This blog explores the cases of several journalists, including Wawa Jackson Nfor, who have been reportedly jailed for reporting on the Anglophone Crisis.  For nearly three years, Nfor has been detained at the Nkambe Principal Prison in Northwest Cameroon. Nfor is charged under Cameroon’s notorious anti-terrorism law and faces a maximum penalty of life imprisonment if found guilty.  In addition to the lengthy pretrial detention, the proceedings against him to date have been characterized by significant due process violations, including reports that he was arrested without a warrant, subjected to physical abuse while in detention, and interrogated in the absence of a lawyer.  


Côte d'Ivoire: A Legal Analysis of the Case Against Freelance Journalist Hubert Yao Konan

Drawing upon an analysis of the court’s judgment and the Center’s observations of the evidence presented during the trial, the Center’s staff have concluded that Konan’s guilty convictions were not based on the required standard of proof beyond a reasonable doubt. Konan seems to have been held criminally liable for the acts of violence committed by others in violation of the requirement of individual criminal liability.


Ecuador: Preliminary Report on Criminal Charges Filed Against Labor Organizer Jorge Acosta

After observing several of the hearings in the cases against Jorge Acosta, an Ecuadorian workers’ rights advocate and coordinator of the banana workers’ union ASTAC, Center staff attorneys concluded that the criminal proceedings against him have been characterized by several serious irregularities. The Center staff further concluded that there are grounds for concern that officials may be using criminal proceedings against Mr. Acosta to intimidate and silence him in violation of his right to a fair trial as well as his right to the freedoms of association and expression. (English) (Español)


Sectoral Equity: A Stimulus Plan for Civic Space

The Justice Defenders Program worked with the former UN Special Rapporteur on the rights to freedom of peaceful assembly and association to compare states' differing treatment of non-state actors, particularly looking into the different status and privileges of businesses compared to those of civil society organizations. 


Freedom of Association And Assembly Rights In Access to Foreign Funding

The Justice Defenders Program received a request from the U.N. Special Rapporteur on the right to freedom of association and assembly to assess whether access to resources, particularly foreign funding, is part of the right to freedom of association under international law, standards and principles.


Violence against Women in Kyrgyzstan: Barriers to Accessing Justice, Fair Trial Rights, and the Right of Peaceful Assembly

This report finds that the actions taken by the state authorities with respect to the 2020 Women’s Day March—including the arrest and illegal detention of the march participants—were unwarranted and violated the participants’ rights to peaceful assembly and freedom of association under the ICCPR and the Kyrgyz Constitution.


Mozambique: Universal Periodic Review Submission by the ABA Center for Human Rights (November 2020)

In this submission to the third periodic cycle of the Universal Periodic Review of the Republic of Mozambique, the Center provides updates and makes recommendations regarding human rights violations in the context of counterterrorism and broader freedom of expression concerns. 


Report on the Arbitrary Suspension of Kwanza Online TV for Sharing Information Related to the COVID-19 Pandemic

The Justice Defenders Program prepared a report on the arbitrary suspension of Kwanza Online TV, a local media house in Tanzania. The Center urged the government of Tanzania to immediately lift the suspension of Kwanza Online TV and ensure the rights of journalists and broadcasters to carry out their legitmate work free from intimidation and harassment.