• Press Release

Amnesty International to Send Delegation of Human Rights Observers to the Republican and Democratic 2016 National Conventions

July 14, 2016

Citing concerns about human rights violations at protests in the U.S. over the last couple of years, Amnesty International will deploy teams of human rights observers to both the Republic National Convention in Cleveland, OH, and the Democratic National Convention in Philadelphia, PA, to monitor any protests and law enforcement response.

Amnesty International has a long history and depth of expertise monitoring protests and investigating police conduct. Since the organization’s founding 55 years ago, it has deployed researchers and independent human rights observers to a range of situations, including the Gezi Park protests in Turkey and in Egypt for  the Arab Spring protests. In the United States, Amnesty International USA has recently monitored protests both in Ferguson, MO, and Baltimore, MD, in the wake of police killings – documenting multiple violations of the human rights of protestors, journalists, and others. After additional killings by police in the U.S. in recent weeks, protesters and journalists have reported a range of human rights violations.

“We are deeply concerned that people’s fundamental human right to peacefully assemble and protest may be violated during the conventions in Cleveland and Philadelphia. Amnesty International’s independent, trained observers will monitor the protests to ensure that human rights are protected,” said Eric Ferrero, Amnesty International USA’s Deputy Executive Director for Strategic Communications and Digital Initiatives. “Our goals are to protect the rights to peaceful assembly and expression and to monitor whether or not authorities are interfering with those rights.”  

This marks the first time Amnesty International has deployed human rights observers to the Republican and Democratic national conventions to specifically monitor demonstrations and law enforcement response.

AIUSA sent letters to the Cleveland and Philadelphia police departments this week notifying them that the organization is deploying human rights observers during the conventions. The letters outline howauthorities are required to act in accordance with international human rights standards and the U.S. Constitution during the policing of protests.

“From the use of smoke bombs to the deployment of armored vehicles, there has been a clear and chilling escalation in law enforcement’s response to those exercising their right to peacefully protest in the U.S.,” said Ferrero. “While officers have a right to defend themselves and a duty to protect the public, they must also work within the law and international standards that govern the use of force. Law enforcement should facilitate the right to peaceful protest — not inhibit it through intimidation or violence.”

AIUSA’s letters to both cities’ police departments and leadership makes clear:

  • The decision to disperse an assembly should be a last resort and should be communicated clearly and with ample time for people to comply.If a small minority tries to turn a peaceful assembly into a violent one, police should protect the peaceful protestors and not use isolated violence as a pretext to impede the rights of the majority of protestors.
  • Police should not use force against protestors simply for assembling; the decision to disperse an assembly should only be taken when there are no other means available to protect public order from an imminent risk of violence; and the type of equipment used to disperse an assembly must be carefully considered and used only when necessary, proportional and lawful.
  • Police should not selectively enforce laws against the media, legal observers, or protest organizers.
  • Arrest and detention should be carried out in accordance with the law and should not be used as a means to prevent peaceful protest or to intimidate or punish people for participating in a public assembly.
  • If people are arrested, police should not use restraints in an excessive manner; people who are arrested should have access to food and water, restrooms, medical attention, and legal counsel.

AIUSA’s letter to the Cleveland Police Department

AIUSA’s letter to the Philadelphia Police Department

A list of best practices on the policing of protests with respect for human rights, as identified by Amnesty International and shared with both police departments