Civil Rights and Political Liberties


To what extent does the state concede and protect political liberties?

All state institutions concede and effectively protect political liberties.
Political liberties are an important part of Estonia’s constitution and they are widely respected in society. There are 11 political parties, which collectively cover the entire spectrum of mainstream political ideologies are registered and active. The Estonian Trade Union Confederation (EAKL), which is comprised of 20 branch unions, represents employees’ interests in collective-bargaining agreements and protects employees’ rights in employment relations. It also consults employers on developing a sustainable labor market and participates in policymaking. Civil society groups organize open forums to discuss important social and political issues. One such forum, the Arvamusfestival (Opinion Festival) is held annually since 2013. There is no state church in Estonia and religious freedom is guaranteed through the presence of 10 religious associations. During COVID-19, restrictions on public events and gatherings have been modest compared to many other European countries. Some peaceful protest meetings against the COVID-19-related restriction were held in 2020–21.
Political liberties are effectively protected in Finland. Finland is one of three countries that received the maximum aggregate score (100) in the category of political rights and civil liberties in Freedom House’s 2021 Freedom in the World survey. Finnish law provides for freedom of speech, and this freedom is upheld in practice. Finns also enjoy freedom of religion, freedom of association and assembly, and the right to organize, bargain collectively and strike. A large majority of workers belong to trade unions, although the share of membership in trade unions has been decreasing. Women enjoy rights and liberties in Finland equal to those of men. Since the criminal code covers ethnic agitation, courts are regularly faced with the delicate task of weighing the principle of freedom of speech against the principle of forbidding hate speech. In September 2018, the Court of Appeal in Turku upheld a ban on the Nordic Resistance Movement, a National Socialist organization, which is also active in Denmark, Norway and Sweden. The ban has subsequently been appealed to the Supreme Court of Finland. The constitution guarantees members of the indigenous Sami population, who comprise less than 1% of the population, cultural autonomy and the right to pursue their traditional livelihoods.
New Zealand
Political liberties are effectively protected under the Bill of Rights Act 1990. Those who believe that their rights have been infringed upon can file a suit before the High Court. Although the bill has the status of ordinary law and can be amended or repealed by a simple majority of parliament, every effort has been made to protect and enhance the integrity of the bill as a fundamental feature of New Zealand’s constitutional arrangements. In addition, the New Zealand Council of Civil Liberties is an active, non-governmental organization that promotes these liberties. In its 2021 Freedom in the World report, U.S.-based think tank Freedom House awarded New Zealand an almost perfect score of 59/60 on the dimension of “civil liberties” (Freedom House 2022). After the right-wing terrorist attack on a mosque in Christchurch in March 2019, the New Zealand government set up a dedicated investigative unit to find and prosecute “hate speech” online. Under existing terrorism legislation, the shooter’s 74-page manifesto was classified as “objectionable,” making it a crime to hold, share or quote from. While critics argue that these steps threaten the freedom of expression, supporters of the government’s actions point to the radicalizing effects of extremist online content (RNZ 2019).
Freedom House (2022) Freedom in the World 2022: New Zealand.

RNZ (2019) “Government announces $17 million to target violent extremist content online.”
Political liberties and human rights are written into the constitution. Sweden is a highly institutionalized advanced democracy. As such, it upholds all political liberties.
Human rights, and civil and political liberties are guaranteed effectively by the Austrian constitution. The Austrian standard of recognition accorded to such liberties and rights is very high. This is reflected in the high score granted by Freedom House in 2021, according to which Austria scored 56 out of a possible 60 points.

With respect to religious freedom, all major denominations enjoy the status of officially recognized religious communities. Officially recognized religious denominations include all major Christian denominations, Islam, Judaism and Buddhism. This status enables access to the public education system in the form of religious instruction in schools, paid for by the government; a privileged way of “taxing” members of religious communities (through the church tax, Kirchensteuer); and other entitlements. As a consequence of these various financial links and other relationships, there is no clear separation between religious denominations and the state. However, religious denominations (especially the still-dominant Roman Catholic Church) have resisted identification with any specific political party.

As a consequence of the significant number of people coming from Muslim-majority countries over recent years, the acceptance of Islam has become less politically secure than in the past. In late 2017, the government introduced a ban on face veils in elementary schools. However, this was ruled unconstitutional by the Austrian Constitutional Court in 2020.

The fear that significant Muslim elements use their position in the educational system to preach a fundamentalist form of Islam, which promotes violence and resistance to gender equality, combined with the existence of an apparently very small but internationally well-connected network of radical Islamists, is feeding a debate concerning the status of Islam. In early 2021, the government introduced plans for a new “Islam law,” with tighter controls and more severe penalties for violations.

Freedom of speech is sometimes seen as being constrained by Austrian courts’ interpretation of libel. The European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) has overturned decisions by Austrian courts in numerous cases, as the Strasbourg court considers the Austrian interpretation to be too narrow. Consequently, the judicial system has (mostly) adapted to the rulings of the ECHR.

The only legalized limitation to political freedom concerns any activity linked to National Socialism. As a consequence of Austria’s past, the Austrian system does not allow political activities based on the doctrine of National Socialism, including Holocaust denial. While the principle is widely supported, its practical interpretation sometimes leads to controversy.
The state and the courts generally show a high degree of respect of, and protection for, political liberties in Canada. The Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms provides a guarantee of “fundamental freedoms” in its section 2, thereby giving courts justiciable norms for the protection of political liberties. Citizens have ample room to express their political opinions in a variety of venues and to participate in politics through extra-parliamentary means such as lobbying and demonstrating in addition to having the right to vote in, and stand for, elections.
Political liberties are protected, respected and used in Czechia. This applies to freedom of speech, freedom of association and assembly, and freedom of religion. The country has a vibrant and politically active civil society, which played a major role in keeping the government accountable during the COVID-19 pandemic. COVID-19-related restrictions on assembly during the repeated states of emergency in 2020 and 2021 largely met the requirements of legality, necessity, proportionality and non-discrimination. For some time, the number of participants allowed to attend a protest was temporarily limited to 100, with social distancing and masks required. These rules were largely followed. In November 2020, the Million Moments for Democracy initiative creatively reacted to the restrictions and organized its first online protest (on YouTube), which attracted over 50,000 participants. When the restrictions were not respected by anti-mask and anti-vaccination protesters, the police acted professionally. The police also sided with the citizens when asked by Minister of Health Adam Vojtech (ANO) to prevent large-scale anti-government demonstrations for health reasons in June 2020. Czechia managed to organize the regional and Senate elections in October 2020, and the parliamentary elections in October 2021 amidst the pandemic.
The Danish constitution protects the political rights and liberties, including freedom of speech, freedom of association and freedom of assembly. Elections are free. The government is accountable to the elected parliament.

Freedom House usually gives Denmark top scores for civil liberties and political rights. Problems in Denmark mostly concern ethnic tensions, especially involving the country’s Muslim population, and alleged abuse of power by the police.

Recent human rights reports from Amnesty International include critiques concerning the treatment of refugees and asylum-seekers, such as the return of asylum-seekers, individual cases of denied asylum, the “management of asylum cases which fails to insure the best interests of the child, and the detention of asylum-seekers and vulnerable persons while awaiting deportation.”

The 2015 – 2016 report from Amnesty International mentioned a recent judgment by the Eastern High Court that the police had unlawfully removed and detained protesters during an official state visit by Chinese officials in 2012. A new investigation of this case has been started, as new information has become available.
Amnesty International Annual Report: Denmark 2016/2017,

Amnesty International, Denmark 2017/2018, (Accessed 3 October 2018)

Amnesty International, Denmark: Human Rights in Review: 2011-2015. (accessed 8 October 2015).
Political liberties are presently well protected in France. This situation can be explained by several factors. The fact that these liberties are considered to be the legacy of the French Revolution sets them in a quasi-sacred position. The protections were granted and solidified by the highest administrative court during the Third and Fourth Republics. Recently, the Constitutional Council has played an increasingly active role in striking down laws that could jeopardize these liberties. The expansion of the court’s powers stemmed from its 1971 decision to protect the right of association from governmental intervention. However, history has shown that the status of such liberties could be diminished in times of crisis or military conflict.

A controversial and still not fully resolved issue is related to the interpretation of the separation of religious and public life (laicité). The ban on religious signs and symbols in all places of public administration and institutions is, in theory, applicable to all religious affiliations but concerns mainly the Islamic community. There is a growing uneasiness among the population about the public display of “differences,” an issue that right-wing and extreme-right parties are particularly vocal about. Indeed, an increasingly illiberal attitude has been evident in public opinion, manifesting in the rejection of differences based particularly on religious beliefs (e.g., Halāl food, public religious demonstrations and wearing burkinis on public beaches).
Due to Germany’s historical experience with National Socialism, political liberties are highly protected by the country’s constitution and the Constitutional Court. Freedom of expression is protected by the constitution (Art. 5), although there are exceptions for hate speech and Nazi propaganda, such as Holocaust denial. With the exception of cases where individuals are deemed to be actively seeking to overturn the democratic order, the right to assemble peacefully is guaranteed (Basic Law, Art. 8) and is not infringed upon. All exceptions are applied very restrictively. For example, even extreme parties such as the far-right National Democratic Party (NPD) currently have full freedom to operate. The Bundesrat appealed to the Federal Constitutional Court seeking to prohibit the NPD but the court did not ban the NPD in his judgment from January 17, 2017.

The freedoms to associate and organize (Basic Law, Art. 9), as well as academic freedom, are generally respected. Non-governmental organizations operate freely. Every person has the right to address requests and complaints to the competent authorities and to the legislature (Basic Law, Art. 17). Freedom of belief is protected by the constitution (Basic Law, Art. 4).
The constitution extends strong protections to political liberties, including the right to vote, to think and speak freely, to assemble and demonstrate, to organize in collectives such as unions and associations and to submit petitions requiring a timely response by the competent authorities. Political liberties in 2020 and 2021 were well protected, as reported by international observers (e.g., Freedom House).

In 2020 and 2021, despite the risk of spreading the COVID-19 virus, mass protests organized by trade unions, by opposition parties and by the anti-vaccination movement were regularly held and were not suppressed by police forces. During the COVID-19 pandemic, in 2021, an amendment to the Penal Code made the spread of fake news on public health matters punishable and tightened penalties for disseminating fake news. The amendment was passed by the government majority in parliament, against the votes of the opposition and disagreement expressed by a few NGOs.

In the period under review, small anarchist groups in large cities sporadically attacked government buildings and the property of private companies, with whom they politically disagreed. As was the case in the past, small radical leftist groups infrequently closed down university or high school buildings by occupying them in protest against government measures they opposed.

In this context, the government regarded the issues of safety and security as taking a high priority. Ιn the period under review, the police evacuated privately owned buildings and rooms in state university buildings, which had been used by the aforementioned groups in Athens and other cities. However, the government’s intention to establish a special police force to patrol university campuses was delayed.

Greece’s largest recognized minority population, the Muslim minority of Western Thrace, has full political rights; four members of the community won seats in the last parliamentary elections (2019). However, based on international treaties which recognize only religious minorities in Greece (the Treaty of Lausanne, 1923), the authorities have rejected some ethnic minorities’ attempts to register associations with names referring to their ethnic identity. Since 2010, documented immigrants who reside in Greece have been allowed, under certain conditions, to vote in municipal elections.

The constitution guarantees religion freedom, but prohibits proselytization. However, the restriction is rarely enforced. For years, successive governments were reluctant to allow the establishment of places of Muslim worship. Finally, in 2019, the Muslim community of Athens started using a state-funded and state-run mosque.
Freedom House Greece Profile 2021

Stricter penalties on disseminating fake news, a crime sanctioned in Greece’s Penal Code (article 191), were provided in 2021, through Law 4855/2021 (article 36)
Freedom of speech, freedom of assembly, and the right to form unions and associations without religious, political or class discrimination are enshrined in the Irish constitution. These rights have been protected and upheld by the Irish courts over the years, subject only to restrictions regarding sedition, blasphemy and breaches of the peace. In October 2014, the government accepted the constitutional convention’s recommendation that a referendum be held on removing the offense of blasphemy from the constitution. On 26 October 2018, the amendment to remove the offense of blasphemy from the Irish constitution was passed by a margin of 64.85% to 35.15%. Notwithstanding this constitutional change, the Defamation Act 2009 has not been repealed, even though section 36 of the act carries a maximum fine of €25,000 for the utterance of material that is “grossly abusive or insulting in relation to matters held sacred by any religion.” However, only the Director of Public Prosecutions can instigate proceedings under this act and given its wording many constitutional lawyers believe it is unworkable.
Sinn Féin, the political wing of the formerly illegal Irish Republican Army has become increasingly involved in mainstream Irish politics since the late 1990s. Its share of the national vote has grown steadily from 1.6% in 1992 to 24.5% in 2020, while the number of seats it occupies in parliament grew from zero to 37 during this time. No political group is presently excluded from access to the airwaves or the print media.
The protection of the complete array of political liberties is enshrined in the constitution and guaranteed by an independent judiciary. During the period of observation, no significant cases of infringement were attested. The right to worship is fully guaranteed to all religious groups and an increasing number of minority groups have been able to use the opportunities offered by agreements with the state to facilitate its implementation. However, some practical problems connected with the freedom of worship, like enjoying the special fiscal treatments guaranteed to religious groups or building places of worship, have not fully disappeared. These problems have been more relevant for Islamic groups, to some extent because of political fears and hostility, but also because of their more uncertain legal status.

During the pandemic crisis, only limited restrictions were applied to the rights to assemble and hold political rallies.
Political liberties are effectively protected and upheld. The right to speak, think, assemble, organize, worship, and petition without government interference or restraint is recognized and protected. However, new challenges to the freedoms of speech, assembly and organization are emerging. For example, freedom of assembly is regularly tested by organizations applying to the Riga city council for permits. In most instances, permits are granted without fail. Sensitive political issues, however, have led the city council to deny permits. There is a right of appeal to the courts and a rapid consideration schedule to ensure timely decisions.
Freedom House (2021) Freedom in the World: Latvia, Available at:, Last accessed: 10.01.2022.
Lithuanian institutions generally respect the freedoms of assembly and association. Lithuania obtained a very high score on the issue of political rights (38 out of 40) and a high score on civil freedoms (52 out of 60) in the Freedom of the World Report published by Freedom House. Lithuanian political parties operate freely, with the Communist party being the only banned grouping. Non-governmental organizations may register without serious obstacles, and human-rights groups operate without restrictions. In 2010, an appeals court ruled that Lithuania’s first gay-pride parade could go ahead on the basis of the right to peaceful assembly. This parade (a controversial issue in this majority Roman-Catholic country) was initially banned by a lower court due to concerns over potential violence. Another gay-pride parade was allowed to be held in the center of Vilnius in 2013. The freedom of religion is also largely upheld in practice, but certain government benefits are granted only to traditional religious communities. Workers may form and join trade unions, strike, and engage in collective bargaining, but slightly less than 10% of the country’s workforce is unionized. According to the Freedom House report, “strikes are relatively uncommon due to strict regulations, a lack of strike funds and the absence of a culture of industrial action.” The Supreme Court has ruled that the right to strike can be used only after other measures provided for in the Labor Code have been exhausted. A new labor code that came into force in 2017 provides additional instruments for the organization of strikes.

In 2021, there was a substantial uptick in protest activities. In May of that year, around 15,000 people protested against the country’s vaccination policy and plans to introduce legalize same-sex partnerships. In August, protests against pandemic management policies in front of the parliament turned violent – a policeman was injured, and members of parliament had to be evacuated. The city of Vilnius refused to grant permission to hold several protests in defense of traditional family values and against pandemic policies, citing concerns over public health and safety, but courts overruled these decisions.

In September 2021, an LGBTQ+ march took place in the municipality of Kaunas. Kaunas’ mayor stated that in his opinion, an event of that nature should not take place on the main avenue of the city, but the courts stated that the organizers had the right to organize the march.
The 2021 freedom rating of Lithuania by the Freedom House is available at
In the Democracy Index Report 2020, Luxembourg was ranked 13th worldwide (with an average score of 8.68 out of 10) and was regarded as a full democracy. The three-top ranking countries were Norway (9.81), Iceland (9.37) and Sweden (9.26).

No infringements of citizens’ rights to speak, assemble, organize, worship or petition occurred during the period under review. Political freedoms are guaranteed. All groups of society are depicted in the media and can be heard. Xenophobia and anti-Semitism are consistently punished by the courts. There are restrictions on civil servants’ freedom of expression, even when a civil servant represents civil society. Sanctions against civil servants were lifted by the courts during the period under review.

However, the 2020 report “Coronavirus Pandemic in the EU – Fundamental Rights Implications,” which was drafted by the EU Agency for Fundamental Rights and the University of Luxembourg, stressed that the coronavirus outbreak has generally limited the citizens’ access to courts, and seriously affected particular groups such as homeless, older people and detainees.
“Democracy Index 2020. In sickness and in health?.” The Economist (February 2021). Accessed 14 January 2022.

“Coronavirus pandemic in the EU – Fundamental Rights Implications. Country: Luxembourg.” European Union Agency for Fundamental Rights (FRA) & University of Luxembourg. (4 May 2020).
Political liberties are protected by the constitution and the law. The right to free expression was strengthened through a constitutional amendment in 2004. Limitations to freedom of speech (such as regarding hate speech/discrimination) are regulated by law. All citizens may comment on legislative proposals in hearing procedures. In 2014, the Sámi minority was granted explicit rights to their own language and cultural expressions. Norway has ratified all international conventions on human and civil rights. The European Convention on Human Rights is incorporated into national law. The right to free worship and other religious activities are ensured. The historical tradition of a privileged, state-owned Lutheran church was ended in 2017, and now, all religious communities are treated equally. Political liberties are respected by state institutions.
Under the regime that ruled Portugal until 1974, there were virtually no political liberties. The basic goal of the political transition was to achieve and guarantee political liberties. Portugal has been successful in this regard, and widely agreed-upon political liberties are now in place and respected. The basic legislation in the constitution, and subsequent regular legislation, guarantees these political liberties. They function generally well. If there are any lapses, they are due more to bureaucratic inefficiency rather than a conspiracy by the Portuguese government.

However, these lapses can be quite serious. For instances, it was revealed in 2021 that the Lisbon city government had shared the protest organizers’ personal details with the entities that were being protested against. For example, this led to information about activists protesting against their governments being shared with those governments’ embassies, including the embassies of Russia, China, Iran and Saudi Arabia, among others. In consequence, the National Authority for Data Protection (Comissão Nacional de Protecção de Dados, CNPD) fined the city government €1.2 million, criticizing the municipality’s “evident disorganization.”

Constitutional restrictions forbid the existence of racist and fascist organizations. Likewise, the penal code criminalizes discriminatory propaganda, as well as the promotion or denial of genocide and racial discrimination. This does not in practice preclude the emergence of such groups, such as the Portugal Hammerskins; but they are very small, and generally well controlled by the police.

While the pandemic led to a declaration of a state of emergency, the associated legislation does not allow for the restriction of political freedoms. The law on the state of emergency stipulates that “the meetings of statutory bodies of political parties, unions and professional associations will in no case be prohibited, dissolved or submitted to prior authorization” during a state of emergency (Article 2 of Law 44/86).

Portugal has a very permissive framework for religions, and the right to worship is protected for every religious community.
DN (2021), “Dados enviados à Rússia. Câmara de Lisboa multada em 1,2 milhões de euros,” available online at:

Público (2021), “Câmara de Lisboa enviou dados para a Rússia 27 vezes. Israel, Angola e China também receberam informações,” available online at:
Switzerland is in many ways a role model for the exercise and protection of political liberties. However, the November 2009 adoption of a ban on constructing new minarets must be considered a serious political signal against the right to freely worship, even if, in practice, the law means little for the free exercise of religion. Before the decision, there were only four minarets in Switzerland.
At the same time, Switzerland proved to be particularly resilient in terms of upholding political rights and democratic standards during the pandemic (see “Civil Rights”).
The new anti-terror law can be considered a threat to political liberties and civil rights, as it enables authorities to take preventive action against so-called dangerous persons outside of criminal law. The new law creates a legal basis for preventive measures such as house arrest and contact bans. Amnesty International Switzerland writes that the anti-terror law is a dangerous breach of the principles of the rule of law. The law is not only directed against so-called terrorist threats, but can also be used to prosecute legitimate political protests. The vague definition of terror opens the door to police arbitrariness.
The United States generally has a strong record of protecting political liberties. The protections cover all of the recognized political freedoms of speech, association, voting, and pursuit of public office, and extend even to extreme groups such as Communists and neo-Nazis. Religious freedoms are protected even for religious fringe groups. In contrast with most developed democracies, the United States’ constitutional free-speech doctrine does not permit laws banning hate speech.

In one significant limitation to political rights, convicted felons are barred from voting in nearly all states, although usually not permanently. Florida passed legislature to restore voting rights for felons in 2018. Additionally, while the government allows protest demonstrations for all kinds of causes, even when they may become disruptive or disorderly, local police have sometimes confined demonstrators to locations far removed from the target events (e.g., during G-8, G-20 and WTO meetings).
All state institutions for the most part concede and protect political liberties. There are only few infringements.
Political liberty is strongly protected by the courts, but is not unfettered. As in other Western countries, anti-terrorist legislation has raised a major challenge to political liberties. The Anti-Terrorism Act 2005 makes any act of sedition illegal, such as urging the overthrow of the government by violence or force, and outlaws any organization that advocates the use of violence or force for that end. One of the main criticisms of the legislation is that it lacks sufficient judicial oversight.

Freedom of speech, religion, the right to organize and the right to strike are not constitutionally guaranteed. However, various High Court judgments, and Commonwealth and state legislative provisions provide at least some protection in this regard.

Federal police raids on a journalist’s home and a broadcaster’s office in June 2019, purportedly to protect national security (but in fact very clearly motivated by political concerns), have been interpreted by many as an increased willingness by the government to suppress whistleblowers and restrict the media’s ability to hold the government to account. Some also regard the design and administration of defamation laws as hampering political liberties, as they act in practice to protect governments, companies and powerful people from scrutiny.
Belgium is a mature democracy in which political rights are generally well-protected. During the COVID-19 crisis, political liberties remained intact. Although some opposition parties occasionally spread “fake news” or discouraged the use of the Belgian “Coronalert” phone app under the argument that it could be used to track citizens, there was no attempt to limit the opposition’s freedom of speech.

Instead, civil liberties came under pressure during the crisis, with the government imposing restrictions on the right to assemble, and therefore to demonstrate. The high tension – not to say exhaustion – within police forces translated into periodic acts of violence, both from and against the police. While these were in no way part of a deliberate policy to restrict civil liberties, they resulted in a progressive erosion of norms. This trend, which probably started with the 2001 terror attacks in the United States and accelerated in the wake of the 2015 and 2016 attacks across Europe, is not entirely new.

By the end of 2021, there was greater awareness that public health measures could impact civil and political liberties. This had induced a more liberty-focused approach by the government, despite loud warnings by virologists and other epidemiological experts. Thus, if anything – and perhaps fleetingly – the needle seems to have been moving back toward political liberties.

World Bank:
Political liberties are guaranteed in Bulgaria by the constitution and relevant laws. Bulgarians enjoy the freedom to express themselves, to assemble and organize themselves (also for explicitly political purposes), to practice their religious beliefs and to petition the government. Bulgarians have clearly established rights to speak freely, assemble and protest. The freedom of expression has suffered from the declining independence of the traditional media, but has been strengthened by the opportunities provided by the internet.

In 2020, these rights were confirmed by a number of protests that were allowed to take place without interference, and by the registration of a new party established by popular TV personality Slavi Trifonov.

In 2020, with the prosecutor general’s consent, prosecutors and police investigators illegally videotaped more than a thousand peaceful protesters, many of whom as well as one journalist, were subject to police brutality. In the context of the protest, the prosecutor general himself initiated several investigations of protesters, referring to them as “national traitors.”
Vassileva, R. (2019): Framing and Raiding. Bulgaria’s Kafkaesque Prosecutor’s Office, 09 June 2021
The 1944 constitution contains provisions protecting the freedom of the press as well as freedoms of organization and assembly. In the 2017 parliamentary election campaign, five parties declared support for ratifying the constitutional bill proposed by the Constitutional Council in 2011, namely the Social Democrats, the Pirate Party, the Left-Green Movement, Regeneration and Bright Future. The strongest opponent of the constitutional change has been the Independence Party, which – together with the Progressive Party, another party that is reluctant to accept the change – is part of the current cabinet coalition led by the Left-Green Movement. The continued failure of this coalition to ratify the new constitution with its many provisions promoting human rights seems assured.

The failure of parliament, despite four intervening parliamentary elections, to ratify the new constitution approved by 67% of voters in a 2012 national referendum called by parliament can be seen as an affront to political liberties. This is because the new constitution contains several provisions specifically designed to promote human rights, including the non-discriminatory allocation of fishing rights and electoral reform, two of the most contested political issues in Iceland since the 1970s and the 1850s, respectively.

Freedom House demoted Iceland from a freedom score of 100 in 2014 to 94 in 2020 and 2021, scoring Iceland 37 out of 40 for political rights and 57 out of 60 for civil liberties for a total of 94 out of 100.
David A. Carrillo (ed.) (2018), The Icelandic Federalist Papers, Ch. 20, Right to Information and Freedom of Expression, Berkeley Public Policy Press.

Freedom House (2022), Iceland, Accessed 3 February 2022.

The New Icelandic Constitution: How Did It Come About? Where Is It?, with a forword by Vigdís Finnbogadóttir and introduction by Thorvaldur Gylfason, Iðunn, Reykjavík, 2018.
The freedoms of speech, the press, assembly and association are guaranteed under Article 21 of the constitution. Reported infringements have been quite rare, though it has often been claimed that the police and prosecutors are more lenient toward vocal right-wing groups than toward left-wing activists.

In 2019, the organizers of the Aichi (Art) Triennale in Nagoya were strongly criticized by the authorities for some of the artwork presented, including the statue of a “comfort woman.” Public funds for the exhibition were recalled.

There are concerns that the anti-conspiracy laws – an amendment to the existing law against organized crime syndicates that expands the catalogue of offenses considered illegal – passed in 2017 in preparation for the 2021 Tokyo Olympics. Critics are concerned that this could undermine political liberties. Under these rules, “words” rather than simply “deeds” can be grounds for prosecution.

There is also concern that right-wing activism, including so-called hate speech, is on the rise, and that this might be supported by politicians associated with the government. Indeed, some senior LDP politicians have been linked to ultra-right-wing groups.

An anti-hate-speech law has been in place since 2016, but has run into problems in terms of implementation. In particular, conflicts exist between efforts to guarantee free speech and to allow the operation of open public services such as websites that enable public comments.
Michael Hoffman, Is Japan slipping into prewar politics?, The Japan Times, 3 June 2017,

Lacking direction from Tokyo, Japan’s municipalities struggle to implement anti-hate speech law, The Japan Times, 24 May 2018,

Jeff Kingston, The Politics of Hate and Artistic Expression in Japan, The Diplomat, 14 September 2019,
In Slovakia, political rights are largely respected. Citizens can freely join independent political and civic groups. The murder of Kuciak and Kušnírová in February 2018 evoked the biggest protests since the Velvet revolution in 1989. The movement “For a Decent Slovakia,” which emerged from these protests, continued to organize rallies in 2019. The murder has evidently bolstered sensitivity for political liberties and the need to protect civil liberties. This new sensitivity was a key factor in Zuzana Čaputová’s presidential election victory in March 2019. During the first years of the COVID-19 pandemic, the right to assembly was temporarily restricted – in November 2020, cinemas, churches and theaters were allowed to reopen whereas public gatherings remained restricted (Steuer 2021). However, these restrictions were clearly not directed against the political opposition.
Steuer, M. (2021): Slovakia’s Democracy and the COVID-19 Pandemic: When Executive Communication Fails, in: VerfBlog, March 8 (
In Slovenia, political liberties are constitutionally protected and guaranteed and are respected by government institutions. The rights to assembly and association, for instance, are guaranteed in Article 42 of the Slovenian constitution and can only be restricted in special cases. The fact that Slovenia has more civil society organizations per capita than most other countries testifies to the protection of the freedom of association. A 2018 law on NGOs has further strengthened the legal position of NGOs.
Since his inauguration, Prime Minister Janša has attacked civil society organizations with various restrictive measures and used hostile rhetoric against NGOs. In December 2020, the government took advantage of the coronavirus crisis in an unsuccessful attempt to abolish state funding for non-governmental organizations through its seventh anti-coronavirus stimulus package. Individuals, NGOs and other informal groups critical of the political situation in the country are often subject to disavowing campaigns. Among others, these target NGOs working in various civil society fields, including culture, human rights, environmental protection, non-discrimination and LGBTQ+ rights. The campaigns are often carried out through media and other communication channels close to the SDS.
Civil Liberties Union for Europe 2021: EU 2020: Demanding on Democracy. Country & Trend Reports on Democratic
Records by Civil Liberties Organisations Across the European Union.
According to the most widely quoted comparative indices measuring the state of democracy, freedoms and the rule of law, Spain is considered to be a free full democracy (in the top 20). The country’s institutions are generally effective at protecting political liberties, subject to special protection against government (or even private) interference, though there are occasionally incidents of infringement. According to Freedom House (2022), the rule of law prevails, and civil liberties are generally respected.

During the period under review, several protests took place against the 2015 law on public safety and an amendment to the Code of Criminal Procedure’s Article 578, which affected freedom of speech by increasing the maximum penalty for “glorifying” terrorism or “humiliating” its victims to three years in prison. Although the coalition government also announced that it intends to revise the law in order to diminish penalties for crimes such as insulting the king, inciting terrorism and offending religious sentiments, the parliamentary debate still continued during the period under review.
Freedom House (2022): Spain,
All the usual political liberties (of assembly, association, movement, religion, speech, press, thought, unreasonable searches/seizures and suffrage) are guaranteed by the constitution. The Netherlands is a signatory to all pertinent major international treaties (Universal Declaration of Human Rights, International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, European Convention on Human Rights). All relevant ranking institutions, such as The Economist’s Intelligence Unit Democracy Index and the Freedom House ranking of political liberties, consistently list the Netherlands as one of the top 10 most free countries in the world.

However, as everywhere else, the coronavirus crisis triggered numerous tensions between the government’s constitutional task (Article 23, Dutch Constitution) of protecting and furthering public health and political liberties such as the freedom of assembly and demonstrations, the freedom of movement (lockdown, travel within and between countries), freedom of religion (number of attendees at religious services), the right to privacy (limits on visits to institutions of care for the elderly, number of visitors per day per household), access to the judiciary (limits on the number of court cases due to social distancing rules), etc. Across the board, legal specialists and the general public have judged that the tension between public health and political liberties was managed reasonably well by the government, within the limits created by necessity and the proportionality of the measures.

However, the freedom of assembly and demonstration in particular came under considerable pressure. The number and size of demonstrations is changing over time due to the influence of social media. Such tools enable the rapid mobilization of large numbers of protesters, while the polarized and radicalized messages in social media have resulted in a so-called cancel culture that undermines the freedom of thought and speech. The number of demonstrations in the Netherlands has doubled over the last five years. As the duration of the crisis increased, and public dissatisfaction with and protest against coronavirus policies rose (especially because of announcement of the evening curfew), this trend became even stronger. Uncharacteristic for this country, demonstrations ended in mass chaos, destruction of property, and violence between protesters and police in a significant number of cases.
Freedom House, Freedom in the world 2021, Netherlands (freedom, consulted 16 December 2021)

College voor Rechten van de Mens, n.d., Dossier: Coronavirus en mensenrechten

Elseviers Weekblad, 21 Janury 2021. De Haan, Demonstreren in coronatijd? Ook dan gelden maatregelen.

Trouw, Pols,27 February 2021. Van klimaatmars tot coronaprotest: Nederlanders gaan steeds vaker de straat op
Without a written constitution and the protection it affords, citizens of the United Kingdom have no fundamental rights in the sense of enjoying special protection against the powers of the executive and parliament. Citizens’ rights in the United Kingdom can thus be said to be residual and negative in nature. Citizens can do anything not expressly prohibited by law, but there are no positive rights to assert against the government unless the government concedes them. In practice, UK citizens enjoy considerable freedoms, although rights to protest were somewhat circumscribed by a law requiring protesters to give advance notice to the police of a demonstration and restrictions on protests in sensitive locations. Even so, demonstrations do take place, sometimes without respecting the legal obligations. For example, the “flash” protests by Extinction Rebellion in 2019 and by a related group called Insulate Britain in 2021 were initially treated lightly by the police, but were subsequently more robustly policed, partly in response to public objections to the disruption caused.

Since disputes about political liberties always arise over contested issues, UK citizens have little recourse within the political system, especially when compared to continental European political systems. The Human Rights Act of 1998 (HRA) represented an attempt to create a “higher law” to which all other laws must conform. It offers individual and minority rights, and empowers judges to hold the executive to account and review acts of parliament. But its effectiveness is constrained by the fact that the government can temporarily annul the HRA, if it considers this necessary for the benefit of the country, and it remains contested.

The relative informality of civil rights in the United Kingdom is often justified by the strong tradition of a fair and open public discourse, which forms the very heart of the United Kingdom’s political identity. However, in recent years, criticisms have been voiced that these informal foundations are being neglected or circumvented for political reasons. With the planned replacement of the Human Rights Act 1998 through a bill of rights, new rules will be set. The government announcement that it will to “restore common sense to the application of human rights,” and provide “a check on the expansion and inflation of rights without democratic oversight and consent” indicates that it intends to roll back existing regulations in this field. In line with further attempts to constrain judicial review (see section D4.2), the government aims to “restrain the ability of the UK courts to use human rights law to impose ‘positive obligations’ onto our public authorities without proper democratic oversight.” These plans are likely, though, to face stiff resistance and may struggle to be realized.
In Croatia, political liberties are largely respected. There are laws that guarantee the freedom of assembly and the freedom of association. However, the Law on Public Assembly is more restrictive than in France or the United States, containing an obligation to outline the purpose of an assembly, and limiting spaces available for public assemblies. While the constitution guarantees freedom of expression, the criminalization of defamation, insult and shaming remains at odds with international standards. According to a survey conducted by the Croatian Journalists’ Association in 2021, at least 924 active lawsuits had at that time been filed against journalists and media. A total of 97% of these were civil actions against publishers, their editors and their journalists, seeking compensation for alleged damages to honor and reputation based on published texts and articles, while the remaining share of lawsuits related to currently active criminal proceedings.
Political liberties and fundamental human rights are generally protected. NGOs and other associations flourish in Cyprus. The multiplication of communication channels facilitates the organization of petitions, protests and rallies. The Church of Cyprus dominates society and interferes in the education system, and is a source of pressure on the Greek Orthodox and other churches. In 2020, several religious minority groups complained about access to, facilities at and the state of places of worship, as well as interference with religious freedoms.

Professional associations and trade unions continue not only to enjoy easier access to public authorities than weaker groups and citizens of third countries, but they are also better received. Third-country citizens need assistance from NGOs to understand and claim their rights.

Although libel has been decriminalized since 2003, both threats to sue and recourse to the courts are often used to silence critics. In 2020 and 2021, there have been isolated cases of interference and attacks on free expression by the authorities.

The blanket ban on public gatherings and demonstrations, introduced because of the COVID-19 crisis, was an extreme measure that violated people’s rights. Moreover, it was not enforced in a coherent way, with the police able to exercise discretion when banning, cracking down on or tolerating public gatherings.

Taking into account the persistence of clientelist systems, founded on discrimination on the basis of party affiliation, we consider that citizens’ liberties and rights are not fully respected.
1. Department of State, 2020 Report on International Religious Freedom: Cyprus,
2. Amnesty International, Cyprus: Police violence must be investigated and blanket ban on protest lifted,
3. MPs grill Justice Minister for reporting parody account, Financial Mirror, 15 February 2021,
The constitution of Malta and its chapter on fundamental human rights provide for a broad range of political liberties. The incorporation of the European Convention on Human Rights into the Maltese constitution as well as membership in the European Union has also enhanced political liberties in Malta. The Maltese judiciary serves as the ultimate guarantor of Maltese rights and liberties, and governments respect court decisions. Maltese citizens also have the right to take a case before the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR), and several individuals have done so with success. The Ombudsman also plays a part in the protection of political liberties. In 2021, the government proposed a constitutional amendment bill, which would grants judicial powers to administrative organs. However, the bill was said to be in breach of the separation of powers and rule of law doctrines, and was defeated. Maltese civil society organizations are demanding the revocation of a controversial legal notice (legal notice 456 of 2021), which allows the director general of the law courts to remove judgments from the courts’ online portal at his discretion. A traditionally clientelistic and partisan approach to politics has in the past hindered the exercise of individual political liberties, although this seems to be less marked today, as the Maltese are strong users of social media, and frequently use these platforms to air their views on political issues. U-turns in Maltese politics because of these pressures have become more frequent, but the problem has not gone away. In the World Economic Forum’s Global Competitiveness Index 2019, there was an improvement in the country’s score for transparency of government policymaking and this continues to be an important challenge. In Freedom House’s Freedom in the World 2021 index, Malta scored 90 out of 100 points overall and 35 out of 40 for political rights. The report cited a number of problematic issues, including the difficulties faced by small parties in entering parliament, the shortcomings of the 2015 Financing of Political Parties Act, the shortcomings of the FOI act, the ineffectiveness of measures intended to investigate corruption, the lack of transparency in the allocation and terms of public contracts, and the influence still wielded by powerful economic interest groups in national politics. Emphasis was also placed on the positive ongoing constitutional reform process. The right to protest publicly is among the freest and safest in the world. Trust in the government remains high and well above the EU average. Excessive delays in court cases and the costs of such delays often deter people from seeking legal solutions, although the picture has improved sharply on this issue. Lengthy pre-trial detention remains a problem. The 2020 country report on human rights practices in Malta cited unlawful detention and continued allegations of high-level government corruption as significant issues. However, it also noted that the government was increasing efforts to identify, investigate and prosecute government officials who committed abuses. Nevertheless, Malta has one of the European Union’s weakest systems for allocating legal aid and lawyers appointed under this system have at times been found to have failed to fulfill their duties. Legal aid lawyers are very poorly paid. The current threshold to be eligible for legal aid is also very low, though this has been increased to include individuals with an annual income of up to €13,000. Malta is one of 11 EU member states that do not provide third-country nationals with electoral rights.
Migrant Integration Policy Index.
Freedom in the World 2015 Malta
COM (2014) 419 Final COUNCIL RECOMMENDATION on Malta’s 2014 National Reform Program
Judiciary criticizes proposals for reform of commission for the administration of justice Times of Malta 1/10/13
Justice Reform Commission makes 450 proposals Times of Malta 2/12/13
Times of Malta 28/09/16 Lawyers to be present during interrogation
Legal and Reformers Network Malta: parties agree on legal aid for suspects facing police interrogation
Access to Legal Assistance in Malta, Aditus 2017
Times of Malta 27/10/17 Malta’s Tribal Politics
Times of Malta 11/11/17 Permanent secretary to be compensated because of political discrimination
Global competitiveness report 2017-2018 World Economic Forum
Malta Independent 31/07/16 55% of Maltese trust government in 2016 compared to 34% in 2012
Times of Malta 23/02/18 Legal Aid system must work
Freedom in the world: Malta 2018
Freedom in the world: Malta 2019
Global competitiveness report 2019 World Economic Forum
Times of Malt 11/01/22 Legal aid capping for civil cases increased to 13,000 annual income
Times of Malta 31/01/22 Administrative offences reviewed Kevin Aquilina
Times of Malta 02/12/2021 Removing online judgements breaches peoples right to know media tell PM
2020 Country report on human rights practices in Malta US Department of State
Romanians continue to exercise their political liberties through well-attended public demonstrations and assemblies. In June 2020, a coalition of academics, students and human rights groups pushed back against Law 617/2019, which looked to ban all educational institutions from “propagating theories and opinions on gender identity according to which gender is a separate concept from biological sex.” Both the University of Bucharest and the Babes-Bolyai University issued strong statements opposing the law, and a petition from the National Alliance of Student Organizations and the National Council of Students called on President Iohannis to block the law. Demonstrators also protested outside the Ministry of Health following the third fire in a hospital in as many months, while smaller demonstrations took place throughout the country as well.

Romanians also exercised their right to protest throughout the pandemic, opposing the government’s lockdown measures, despite health-related restrictions on public gatherings. In March 2020, several hundred protestors gathered and additional demonstrations have taken place throughout the pandemic. The Romanian government bent to public pressure, easing lockdown restrictions throughout the country, despite having some of the lowest vaccination rates in Europe and, as of late 2021, some of the highest infection and death rates in the world. In general, Romanians enjoy a well-respected right to political demonstration and civil liberties, with freedom of assembly guaranteed in the constitution.
European Commission, “COMMISSION STAFF WORKING DOCUMENT 2021 Rule of Law Report Country Chapter on the rule of law situation in Romania Accompanying the COMMUNICATION FROM THE COMMISSION TO THE EUROPEAN PARLIAMENT, THE COUNCIL, THE EUROPEAN ECONOMIC AND SOCIAL COMMITTEE AND THE COMMITTEE OF THE REGIONS 2021 Rule of Law Report The rule of law situation in the European Union,” SWD(2021) 724 final, Brussels, 20 July 2021, ault/files/2021_rolr_country_chapte r_romania_en.pdf
South Korea
Political liberties are protected by the constitution, but infringements do take place. The National Security Law is considered one of the main obstacles to freedom of expression, association and assembly, as it authorizes the National Intelligence Service (NIS) to punish persons and shut down groups if they are deemed to hold pro-communist views. In 2020, the National Assembly stripped the NIS of its authority to conduct criminal investigations into violations of the National Security Law (effective 2024). Some, however, criticize the amendment for not going far enough (i.e., by abolishing the National Security Law altogether) and/or for creating ambiguity that could be exploited by the NIS to increase its surveillance of citizens and NGOs that have dealings with foreigners involved in international financial transactions. Criticism notwithstanding, the intent of this reform is, as stated by President Moon, to “completely separate powerful institutions from domestic politics and install systems to make any such institutions unable to wield omnipotent power.”

There are also some limits on the freedoms of association and assembly. Labor unions still face difficulties, including legal limits on their freedom to organize and engage in political activities. Businesses can sue labor unions for compensation for “lost profits” during strikes. Outdated regulations exist that can be used by union busters to curb the power and reach of labor unions. For example, in 2013, the conservative government shut down and for years refused to legalize the Korean Teachers and Education Workers Union (KTU), because it allowed employees who had been fired to remain members. In 2020, under the progressive Moon administration, the KTU finally regained its status as a labor union. Moreover, in 2021, 30 years after Korea joined the International Labour Organization (ILO), Korea finally ratified three core ILO conventions: No. 29 (Forced Labor), No. 87 (Freedom of Association and Protection of the Right to Organize), and No. 98 (Right to Organize and Collective Bargaining). The bill on ratifying Convention 105 (Abolition of Forced Labor) was withdrawn due to unresolved conflicts with domestic laws regarding prison labor.

The need to contain COVID-19 led to some restrictions and even bans on public demonstrations and other gatherings (e.g., church services) during the reporting period. Some groups, particularly those on the right wing of the political spectrum, accused the government of using the pretext of public health and safety to ban anti-government demonstrations.

Notwithstanding some suspension of some liberties in the interest of pandemic containment, Korea maintained its position as one of the few successful democracies in East Asia. It led the region’s rankings in the areas of press freedom and liberal democracy. Indeed, it was the only Asian country ranked in the top 10% of the 2020 V-Dem Liberal Democracy Index, and its liberal democracy score was higher than more than half of OECD members. In general, the frequency of infringements of political rights by the state declined under the Moon administration, and there is today greater space for and respect accorded to open political debate and diverging political opinions.
Amnesty International Report 2019,
“Democracy Report 2021: Autocratization Turns Viral.” V-Dem Institute, March 2021.
Haggard, Stephan. “Is Korea Vulnerable to Democratic Backsliding?” The Peninsula Blog. Korea Economic Institute, January 6, 2022.
Human Rights Watch. 2020. “South Korea: Events of 2019.” Retrieved from
Human Rights Watch. 2021. “South Korea: Events of 2020.” Retrieved from
Human Rights Watch. 2022. “South Korea: Events of 2021.” Retrieved from
Human Rights Watch. “South Korea: Revise Intelligence Act Amendments,” December 22, 2020.
International Labour Organization. “Korea Recognizing Respect for Fundamental Labour Standards as the Foundation for Tackling the Challenges of the Future of Work.”, April 29, 2021.–en/index.htm.
Jang, Pil-su. “Supreme Court Grants KTU Official Legal Status as Union after 7-Year Legal Battle.” Hankyoreh, September 4, 2020.
Pak, Bo-ram. “(Lead) Assembly Passes Revised Spy Agency Law after Eliminating Opposition Filibuster.” Yonhap News Agency, December 13, 2020.
UNI Global Union. “Korea: Unions Welcome Government’s Move to Ratify ILO Core Conventions after Thirty Years,” March 18, 2021.
In general, political rights are protected by the constitution and legislation and enforced by government policy and practice. As indicated by Human Rights Watch, “Chile’s current constitution upholds the right to ‘express opinions and to inform, without any prior censorship, in any form and by any means.’ But the country’s Penal Code contains a variety of vaguely worded articles that threaten free speech.” The constitution protects the freedom of conscience, the manifestation of all beliefs and the free exercise of all religions that are not contrary to morals, good customs or public order. The creation of unions is defined in the Labor Code, especially Article 227.
Compared to other countries in the region, unions in Chile enjoy relatively high levels of trust. Nevertheless, police interventions have sometimes crossed the line from guaranteeing law and order into repression – especially during the more intense period of the student movement, during protests by Chile’s indigenous people and during the mass demonstrations of October 2019, all of which exposed the limitations on the right to protest. Furthermore, the biased media landscape limits equal access to information and the opportunity to communicate different political opinions and versions of conflict situations.
Human Rights Watch, last accessed: 27 March 2022.

Centro de Investigación Periodística (CIPER), “Sindicatos en tiempos de crisis: reviven pero son ignorados por la autoridad”, 1 May 2020,, last accessed: 27 March 2022.
The Polish constitution does protect political liberties and all options for citizens to express themselves freely in public. However, under the PiS government, violations of these rights have increased and opportunities to use them have been impeded. First, the Law on Public Assembly has been more restrictive by privileging state-organized and regular public events over demonstrations organized by social actors. Since December 2016, assemblies of citizens cannot be held simultaneously and place as gatherings organized by the public authorities or churches. This means that counter-demonstrations to periodic assemblies, typically devoted to patriotic, religious and historical events, are forbidden, which prioritizes governmental or government-supported assemblies. A second reason for concern is that the treatment of demonstrators by the police has worsened, as evidenced by an increasing number of interrogations and arrests and growing police violence. In addition, the ongoing changes in the court system make it more difficult to defend political liberties or act against violations of them.

During the COVID-19 pandemic, the selective treatment of demonstrations and demonstrators has continued. Demonstrations perceived as hostile to the government have been met with aggressive police activity. When entrepreneurs gathered in Warsaw every Saturday to protest against the government’s crisis measures, the police used tear gas and arrested participants. The massive countrywide protests prompted by the anti-abortion ruling of the Constitutional Tribunal in late October 2020 were also met with disproportionate responses. In December 2020, Women’s Strike leader Marta Lempert’s allegedly positive coronavirus test was even disclosed by the national television TVP, a clear violation of her right to privacy. By contrast, right-wing demonstrations, even when directed against the government’s containment measures, have been subject to fewer restrictions. In preparation for the country’s national independence day on 11 November 2020, Prime Minister Morawiecki wrote a letter addressed to all citizens in which he called it a patriotic act to stay at home. At the same time, he refrained from backing Warsaw Mayor Trzaskowski, who banned the traditional far-right “march of independence” on that very day. When the march took place despite the ban, heavy rioting broke out that led to around 300 arrests and 35 police officers being injured. Notwithstanding these events, the government did not officially condemn the violence and nationalistic slogans. Government propaganda framed the events by blaming feminist groups for provoking hooligans to use violence and fight the police. In 2021, the government likewise made sure that the “march of independence” could take place.
State institutions concede political liberties but infringements occur regularly in practice.
Israel’s lack of a constitution means that the guarantee of political rights is confided to status of basic laws. Thus, they are not constitutional as such. For these and other reasons, the responsibility to protect political liberties still lies with the Israeli parliament. However, parliamentary activity has not been conducive to this task. In the last few years, many pieces of legislation and proposed legislation appear to undermine aspects of democracy and due process.

For example, the Disclosure Requirements for Organizations Funded by Foreign Political Entities Law, legislated in 2016, requires NGOs that receive more than half of their income from foreign governments to submit an annual report to the registrar of non-profit associations in the Ministry of Justice. This law was criticized for applying almost exclusively to human rights and left-wing organizations: 25 of the 27 organizations in Israel that get more than half their funding from foreign governments are human rights organizations identified with the left.

Other problematic legislation prohibited people who have supported a boycott of the state of Israel from entering Israel. However, many problematic proposals did not win parliamentary passage or were eventually softened in part due to public opposition.
Ben Shitrit, Lihi, “Israel’s Shrinking Democracy.” Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, 10.03.2016:

Dahan, Tal, “Situation report: The state of human rights in Israel and the OPT 2016,” The Association for Civil Rights in Israel,

“Freedom in the world 2019,” Freedomhouse website:

“Israel minister pursues tougher anti-BDS law,” Memo Middle Rast Monitor, 2/11/2017:

Knesset Press Release “Knesset passes NGO transparency law,” 12.07.2016, (Hebrew)

“Project Democracy: The Arab minority,” The Association for Civil Rights in Israel (October 2010):

Yishai, Yael, “Civil Society in Israel,” Carmel, Jerusalem, 2003.

Gild-Hayo, Debbie, “Antidemocratic Legislation: Ramifications for Human Rights and the Work of NGO,” ACRI, May 26, 2019,

Asseburg, Muriel, “Shrinking Spaces in Israel,” SWP Comments, September 2017,
In many parts of the country, high levels of criminal violence undermine democracy. Public officials, especially at the local level, are frequently kidnapped, harassed and even murdered, while the murderers, usually linked to organized crime, enjoy impunity. While the lack of credible and capable legal investigations in such cases makes it impossible to know the true extent of the problem, there is considerable evidence that authorities are not merely inept. Rather, they are sometimes complicit in violating citizens’ political liberties. The justice system has proven to be particularly ineffective in prosecuting powerful rights violators. For years,impunity for corruption-related crimes has been around 97-98%, and high-level politicians are rarely sentenced or impeached.
Schedler, A. (2014). The criminal subversion of Mexican democracy. Journal of Democracy, 25(1), 5-18.
While political liberties are guaranteed by the constitution and are formally respected, the Orbán governments have shown little respect for them. Similar to other countries, demonstrations were temporarily banned in 2020 and 2021 in context of the COVID-19 pandemic, even when other forms of public events and gatherings were already permitted. However, Prime Minister Orbán and other Fidesz leaders have defamed opposition activists as traitors to the Hungarian nation and as foreign agents paid by George Soros, similar to Putin’s style. The government has instituted burdensome registration and reporting requirements for NGOs. Moreover, organizations assisting asylum-seekers have been subject to the restrictive 2018 “Stop Soros” legislation. The Hungarian government has reacted slowly to a decision by the Court of Justice of the European Union in June 2020 that Hungary’s 2017 NGO law violates EU law. In November 2011, the Court of Justice of the European Union also ruled against the “Stop Soros” laws.
Political liberties are unsatisfactory codified and frequently violated.
On 24 October 2019, the parliament passed the first law proposal prepared by the Ministry of Justice with the participation of related parties, which addresses the objectives and targets defined in the 2019 Judicial Reform Strategy. The law introduces important regulations to strengthen the rule of law. A provision added to the Anti-Terror Law provides that statements of opinion, which do not exceed the limits of reporting or are made for criticism, should not constitute a crime. Also, the maximum periods of pretrial detention have been revised. The period of pretrial detention is limited to six months if the offense is not within the jurisdiction of the higher criminal court, and one year if the offense falls within the court’s jurisdiction. For some offenses (e.g., terrorism), this period can be six months to one year, which can be extended for an additional six months for adults, if justification is provided. The period of detention allowed for children is shorter.

Although it is technically against law, President Erdoğan and other AKP officials publicly comment on most political hearings. The constitutional amendment on parliamentary immunities adopted in May 2016 lifted immunity for a large number of deputies, and resulted in the detention and arrest of several HDP members of parliament, including the two party co-chairs in November 2016. The subsequent emergency rule saw the further arrest of thousands of HDP members as well as 16 HDP lawmakers. In the case of Selahattin Demirtaş, the pro-Kurdish Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP) co-chair and 2018 presidential candidate, who had been detained since 4 November 2016, the ECHR found Turkey guilty of stifling pluralism and limiting the freedom of political debate, and unanimously demanded that the Turkish government take all necessary measures to end the applicant’s pretrial detention.

The right to assemble and organize is largely restricted. During the period in question, the government largely exploited the pandemic to prevent mass gatherings. In particular, protests against the country’s withdrawal from the Istanbul Convention and against the trustee rector appointed to Boğaziçi University, as well as Workers Day gatherings, were banned by the governorships on the grounds of “public health.”
Bianet. “Pandemi bahane: Eylem ve gösteri hakkı yok sayılıyor “. April 23, 2021. Accessed 4 April 2022. .

The Human Rights Watch, Turkey. 2021.

Freedom House, Freedom in the World 2021, Turkey Profile

European Commission. “Turkey Report 2021. Commission Staff Working Document.” October 19, 2021.
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