11 February 2020
Today, 24 human rights organizations published an open letter to Carrie Lam, Hong Kong’s Chief Executive, expressing concern over the arrest of five human rights observers whilst conducting their work at protests. These arrests contravene international human rights law and standards, and raise the question of whether the Hong Kong SAR government continues to honour its international obligations to safeguard the right to freedom of peaceful assembly.
The rights of human rights observers to conduct their work is established under a number of international human rights standards, including the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (Articles 19 and 21) – which is incorporated into Hong Kong law through the Bill of Rights. Accordingly, no matter whether an assembly is declared unlawful, is no longer peaceful, or is dispersed, it does not terminate the right of civil society groups to monitor it. Observers should not be harassed, arrested or penalized as a result of their attendance at a protest for observation. Confiscation and/or damaging or destruction of notes and visual or audio recording equipment of the observers by the police should be prohibited and punished.
The signatories of the open letter also call on the Hong Kong SAR government to respect, protect and facilitate the right of human rights observers to monitor all aspects of assemblies; immediately cease the criminal investigations into the five human rights observers, drop all related charges and return all their belongings and equipment forthwith; and establish a fully independent, impartial, effective and prompt investigation into the use of force by the Hong Kong Police Force during the Extradition Bill protests. This includes excessive use of force, allegations of torture and other ill-treatment in detention, and the treatment of journalists, observers and other human rights defenders doing their legitimate work at the protests.
Civil Rights Observer
Amnesty International Hong Kong
Hong Kong Human Rights Monitor