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Britain entering a ‘bleak new era’ of protest crackdowns, says Amnesty

The human rights charity launches digital map showing rise in repression of protests by governments internationally

BRITAIN is performing worse than average on empowerment rights as it enters a “bleak new era,” a global interactive map exposing “blistering attacks” on peaceful protests worldwide revealed today.

Amnesty International launched its digital map showing the rise in the repression of protests by governments internationally as it warned that authorities are increasingly resorting to unlawful use of force and repressive legislation.

It highlighted Britain’s “draconian move to clampdown on protests.”

The map shows how governments treat protests as a threat rather than a right and how law enforcement officials view their role as being to suppress and subdue protesters rather than to facilitate their rights.

Thousands of people are being unlawfully dispersed, arrested, beaten and even killed during demonstrations as a result, the group said.

Britain scores just 5.6 out of 10 on the right to assembly and association in the Human Rights Measure Initiative’s 2023 Rights Tracker, following a gradual decline since 2017.

This means that many people are not enjoying their civil liberties and political freedoms of speech, assembly and association, and democratic rights.

Compared with similar countries, Britain is performing worse than average on empowerment rights, the tracker found.

Those most at risk of these attacks are people who protest or engage in non-violent political activity as well as trade union members and human rights campaigners, it said.

Amnesty International noted that the scoring comes as Britain’s fundamental rights to peaceful protest are rapidly disappearing as police forces begin to use the vast range of new anti-protest powers given to them under the Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Act and the Public Order Act.

Jesse Palmer of the People’s Assembly Against Austerity said that the finding is “shocking, but not surprising.”

He told the Star: “Under 13 years of Tory governance, we have seen our jobs, services, environment and people battered, broken, burned and beaten into something unrecognisable.

“The [Acts] are just the latest weapons in the Tory arsenal against the working class.

“It has become apparent that the only way to stop these criminals acting on behalf of private interests is to build an organised mass movement to fight them.”

The People’s Assembly will host its annual national demonstration against the Tories in Manchester on October 1, during the party’s conference, as part of the ongoing struggle against Tory attacks on the public.

Amnesty International UK military, security and police programme director Oliver Feely-Sprague said: “It’s deeply disturbing how far the UK government has gone to crush our rights and criminalise so many aspects of peaceful protest.

“This is a bleak new era for protest rights in the UK. The police have, in effect, been given licence to close down almost any protest they wish.

“The UK is rapidly aligning itself with a host of repressive governments we have previously condemned for the way they crack down on protesters, dissent and fundamental freedoms.

“We can only hope that future governments see this for what it is and repeal this insidious package of laws being inflicted on the country.”

Amnesty International’s interactive digital map, the first of its kind, reveals how many countries misuse less lethal weapons such as tear gas, rubber bullets, pepper spray, and batons to harass, intimidate, punish, or drive away protesters, shutting down their right of peaceful assembly.

A recent report by the group found credible allegations of state police using unlawful force against peaceful protesters in 2022 in at least 86 of the 156 countries covered.

In 37 countries, security forces used lethal weapons against protesters.

One of the 37 countries is India, where authorities have resorted to the use of guns, tear gas, baton charges, internet shutdowns, and even forced evictions against people protesting the government.

The map can be found on the Amnesty International website.

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