( OSCE ) - The situation with fundamental freedoms of association, assembly and expression in a number of OSCE participating States are still a matter of concern, said participants at an OSCE meeting that concluded in Vienna.
Those challenges include interferences, unnecessary obstacles and disproportionate response from authorities to those legitimately exercising those freedoms.
"Clearly, the responsibility to respect the freedom of association, assembly and expression lies with OSCE participating States themselves; they should work with civil society to eliminate obstacles to their implementation," said Josep Borrell, Special Envoy of the Spanish Chairman-in-Office and the former President of the European Parliament in his closing remarks at the two-day meeting in Vienna.
Participants also raised the issue of legitimate limitations to the three freedoms, for instance to avoid violence and hatred.
Ambassador Christian Strohal, Director of the OSCE Office for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights, said: "What causes great concern, however, is deliberate abandonment of proportionality and necessity when limiting fundamental freedoms. In a number of participating States, a free and vibrant civil society is stifled in a variety of different bureaucratic, legalistic and arbitrary ways."
Strohal also noted opportunities and positive examples, such as well-trained police that intervene in a proportionate and professional manner during assemblies, as well as authorities that engage in a constructive discussion with organizations which directly oppose views of the majority of their citizens.
Such examples are included the book "The OSCE/ODIHR Guidelines on Freedom of Assembly and Association", launched today. The publication offers guidance on how to ensure that legislation that addresses those freedoms is in line with international commitments and standards. The publication also addresses issues that may arise when such legislation is implemented.