As an activist, knowing your rights is an enormously powerful tool to have when dealing with authorities. "Rights" is here understood as legal rights, rather than any moral, philosophical or religious rights. Use this knowledge to protect yourself, to organise actions, or to outwit heavy-handed police officers.
The rights that you have within your country are also influenced by international rights which apply to everyone. Check out the sections below.
Activist Handbook is written by people like you from all over the world. Add a section on your country now!
In the 2020 edition of their Democracy Index, the Economist Intelligence Unit (EIU) recorded the worst state of global democracy since the index was first produced in 2006. In 2020, the average global democracy score fell from 5.44 in 2019 to 5.37, marking the lowest score in the index’s history. In total, the democracy scores of 116 countries declined, with only 38 improving and the other 13 stagnating. The global health crisis caused by the novel coronavirus pandemic resulted in the largest curtailment of civil liberties ever undertaken by governments during peacetime. While it seems there was no alternative to most temporary restrictions imposed by governments for the sake of public health, the lack of discourse and popular engagement in their respective decision-making processes, as well as the extent to which “authoritarian regimes” used this emergency to further infringe upon the rights of their citizens, has shown the continuing fragility of democracy and the need for greater political participation and more effective and accountable governance. These restrictions, enacted in order to slow the spread of the disease and prevent further loss of life, were the primary contributor to the democratic regression seen in most of the world’s states, from “full democracies” to “authoritarian regimes”. According to the authors of the report, the scores of many governments were downgraded because of the censorship of lockdown skeptics and other dissenting voices, the imposition of states of emergency and restrictions on civil liberties, and the general lack of citizen involvement in the processes that were used to make these decisions.
Yet in the span of a few months, much of the world’s population willingly surrendered their rights and freedoms to their governments for the sake of preventing the catastrophic loss of life that would have otherwise occurred. In various cases, rulers of “authoritative regimes” took advantage of the pandemic in order to suppress dissent, subdue political opponents, and further solidify their grip on power, like in China, where the pandemic led to an expansion of online censorship and surveillance, as well as a tightening of media controls and restraints on civil liberties. Latest example is Myanmar where the authorities have found a “new and overly broad” use for the controversial “Peaceful Assembly Law”: threatening charges against student activists who distributed anti-war flyers in downtown Yangon. Human Rights Watch (HRW) said in a statement that the cases against the students should be immediately dropped, and raised concerns about the new application of the law. This trend has also infected countries which are not generally considered as “authoritative” in the public view, such as Greece, where a new law was passed to restrict the right to protest.
(1) Not to be confused with the European Union (Member states of the Council of Europe: Albania, Andorra, Armenia, Austria, Azerbaijan, Belgium, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Bulgaria, Croatia, Cyprus, Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, France, Georgia, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Iceland, Ireland, Italy, Latvia, Liechtenstein, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Malta, Republic of Moldova, Monaco, Montenegro, Netherlands, North Macedonia, Norway, Poland, Portugal, Romania, Russian Federation, San Marino, Serbia, Slovak Republic, Slovenia, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, Turkey, Ukraine, United Kingdom