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ERG calls on Govt to restore right to freedom of assembly

Photo by Eyleen Gomez

The Equality Rights Group has called on the Gibraltar Government to set out a timetable “for the restoration of full democracy” including the right to assembly as the Rock emerges from lockdown.
In a statement, the ERG welcomed the Gibraltar Government’s management of the pandemic and the restrictions that were introduced in response to the Covid-19 crisis.
But the group said that as restrictions were eased across many other areas of community life, so too should other limitations on fundamental rights.
“As has happened for a number of other pandemic timetable commitments to date, it's now time for Government to set a date for the restoration of full democracy in Gibraltar,” the ERG said.
“There’s no reason why this can’t be done with all the decision-making precautions that have applied before.”
“Fundamental rights are an integral part of our way of life and citizens need the reassurance of that return.”
“Indeed, the Gibraltar we love would be unrecognisable without the rights of citizens freely exercised under the rule of law and the constitution.”
The ERG was echoing an earlier call six months ago along the same lines, which it said “went unanswered” against the backdrop of evolving and uncertain public health circumstances at the time.
And it added: “Today more than ever, ERG holds that an examination of the facts and expert recommendations point to the time being right for ending the muzzle on the most fundamental of people’s rights: that of freedom of assembly and peaceful protest,’ the group goes on to state.”
“For the past year, Government has been rightly exercising its duty of care to the community in a careful battle against the sad consequences of the pandemic,” the group said.
“As recent statements acknowledge, however, the situation has moved on and evolved.”
“The Chief Minister, therefore, must now exercise that judgement equitably across all fields of our community’s life.”
The ERG said it was also talking to the unions, social agents and citizens’ groups to advocate that fundamental rights be factored into the lifting of restrictions in the same way as commercial or other considerations, “because they are a vital part of the mix”.
“In the same way that Government is already setting slow but sure dates in this respect, with its advance announcement re-invoking the referendum on abortion legislation for 24th June, in addition to the likelihood of planned public attendance of sports events, ERG is asking the Chief Minister, on that same qualified basis, to set a date now for the full return of democratic normality, a right hijacked by the crisis for too long,” the group said.
“If it’s OK to lift or lower restrictions on groups or individuals meeting for business or social need, or to drop the obligation to wear masks except in limited areas of Gibraltar, it is not beyond the scope of both policy and policing to adopt proportional measures when it comes to freedom of assembly,” the ERG said.
“Indeed, from all the expert evidence that has been made available both in Gibraltar and elsewhere, there is no reason why peaceful assembly held with all the recommended measures cannot be as reasonable and as safe as all the other limitations which have now been dropped.”
“Our fundamental rights cannot be the Cinderella of our concerns.”

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