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ERG asks government to review Covid-19 restrictions on public assembly

The Equality Rights Group has written to the Gibraltar Government urging it to ease public health restrictions on the right to assembly.

At present, large public gatherings are banned under Covid-19 regulations aimed at stemming the spread of the virus.

But the ERG says that with adequate social distancing and other measures including the sue of masks, such gatherings should be allowed.

“For some time now, we have been receiving a number of reports from individuals and community associations alleging restrictions imposed on their right to public protest and or assembly,” said ERG chairman Feliz Alvarez in a statement.

“It is a matter that, in the context of the on-going pandemic, is of concern to all.”

“We cannot fault those in authority with a responsibility for safeguarding the safety of our community for taking steps to exercise their duty in this respect.”

“With the scarcity of proven information that existed in the opening months, it was difficult.”

“However, after six months, and at a time when we are now much more aware and knowledgeable about effective measures to control the spread of the virus - social distancing and use of masks -, it is now time to reconsider the management of as fundamental a constitutional right as that of freedom of assembly, and to restore proportionality.”

Mr Alvarez said he had written to Chief Minister Fabian Picardo inviting him and his government to reassess the situation as it stands today.

“In our view as a human and civil rights organisation, it is imperative for all of us to be vigilant not only of the physical but also the democratic health of this community,” Mr Alvarez said.

“And, given the very real possibility of social distancing and mask discipline being required and strictly enforced, a more proportionate response from government would alleviate the imbalance all round.”

In tandem, the ERG urged all citizens to consistently uphold the highest standards of hygiene, but also to insist on their "fundamental and important right” to be able to air legitimate, peaceful protest and differences of view in public. 

'It is only through civil society’s function in holding those in power to account that democratic controls can take place, and to ensure our representatives are acting to the betterment of all,” Mr Alvarez said.

“And that is never more important than at times of social difficulty.”

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