During mass anti-government protests in 2020, the Ombudsman of the Republic of Bulgaria received several complaints from individuals and civil society concerning violations of the right to freedom of peaceful assembly and the right to legal aid. Protesters were detained by police in Sofia on 10 July and 2 September 2020 in reportedly overcrowded premises and with no access to lawyers. The media published images of violence and presumably excessive use of force against protesters and reporters by law enforcement. The Ombudsman issued a public statement emphasising the need to ensure that any use of physical force and auxiliary means by law enforcement is proportionate and in line with national law and international and regional standards.
A human rights activist from an area outside of state control faced physical danger and criminal charges while being imprisoned due to her human rights work. The Public Defender (Ombudsman) of Georgia challenged her detention and harassment as illegal, calling for a fair investigation and issuing several public statements calling on authorities to ensure her safety. The NHRI also raised international and regional attention of the case and nominated the defender for the Václav Havel Human Rights Prize and the UN Human Rights Prize.
In 2020 and 2021, journalists investigating organised crime and paramilitarism in Northern Ireland received death threats. For example, journalist Patricia Devlin received online threats, including towards her young son and graffiti featuring the crosshair of a gun next to her name. In September 2021, her complaint that the Police Service had failed to investigate the complaints or provide protection was upheld. In April 2021, a Belfast Telegraph photographer was attacked whilst covering unrest in Belfast.
The Northern Ireland Human Rights Commission (NIHRC) recommended that limitations of journalists’ freedom of expression must be human rights compliant. Information allegedly linking state agents to non-human rights compliant conduct should not be withheld and HRDs should not face intimidation or reprisals for disclosing such information. The NIHRC insisted that the right to a fair trial and effective remedy for journalists are fulfilled. Additionally, it recommends that journalists have effective protection to report on issues of public importance.
During the unauthorised public events of January and February 2021, the Commissioner for Human Rights of the Russian Federation established a working group to immediately review and take urgent measures to respond to all complaints received through the NHRI’s hotline. Some complaints related to alleged violations to the right to freedom of peaceful assembly, access to a lawyer, obstruction of journalists’ activities and administrative detention conditions. In total, 83 requests for verification of persons under administrative arrest were submitted to the prosecutorial and government authorities. Moreover, the High Commissioner held in-person meetings with representatives of the human rights community on the above-mentioned issues, and members of her Office visited internal affairs departments and special detention centres for persons under administrative detention.