Research Project

The Oxford Handbook of Peaceful Assembly

CGHR has played a key role in the development of the Oxford Handbook of Peaceful Assembly (2024), a major collection of state-of-the-art scholarship on assembly from diverse perspectives.   

The handbook is co-edited by CGHR Co-Director Sharath Srinivasan and CGHR Research Associate Thomas Probert, the volume includes chapters by them and also by CGHR co-director Ella McPherson. The handbook’s genesis was in the pioneering work and collaborative leadership of Christof Heyns, a longstanding colleague and friend of the centre, who led the UN Human Rights Committee’s landmark pronouncement on the right in General Comment 37. CGHR’s contribution to that policy work, especially on the right of peaceful assembly in online spaces, was a foundation for the Handbook project. 

More on the Handbook: 

The right of peaceful assembly has attracted growing policy and legal attention in recent years as the world has been reminded of the potential for peaceful assemblies to play a vital role in bringing about important social and political change. At the same time, authorities often fear assemblies as a dangerous threat to the status quo and a potential source of instability. Too often, the result is that they are brutally suppressed or dealt with in an ad hoc manner. Across the globe, those seeking to exercise their rights depend on the favorable exercise by capricious officials of widely framed discretionary powers. At the same time, recent years have seen significant developments in the codification of international standards on the right of peaceful assembly by the United Nations. It is, therefore, timely to  examine peaceful assembly as a distinct political and social practice that lies uneasily at the heart of the modern state, and that can, at times, pose a threat to the political status quo for better or worse. 

This multi-disciplinary volume brings together lawyers, political theorists, sociologists, anthropologists, and historians to interrogate the importance of peaceful assembly, its value, its status as a legal right, and the boundaries of its legitimate regulation. The chapters in this volume ask: What is assembly? How should we assess its value? Legally, what does the right of peaceful assembly protect? What obligations arise for states and others from recognizing this right? How should those rights and obligations be implemented in policy and practice? How can contextualizing historic assemblies, as events, enrich our understanding of assembly in all its facets? And finally, what considerations should inform evaluations of existing regulatory regimes or the development of better ones?