City IndexWhat are the penalties for protesting around the world?
This week, City Index takes a look at the penalties demonstrators can face.
While many nations around the world promise their citizens the freedom of assembly and protest, scores of demonstrators often find themselves in handcuffs for one reason or another. The punishment for vocal or violent dissent varies from government to government, ranging from dirty stares from police officers to the death penalty. We looked at some of the world’s biggest protests over the last five years to see how governments quell civil disobedience.
We chose 8 CITIES across the globe, from Baltimore to Hobart, to retrieve our data.
As the recent protests in Baltimore escalated to violence, punishments escalated as well. Demonstrators caught protesting the city-wide curfew would be slapped with a misdemeanor and fined anywhere from $500 to $5,000, while those caught vandalizing property could be jailed with bail set at $500,000.
30 months in jail and fines
Protesting in occupied territories such as the West Bank come with many restrictions. According to the ACLU, the West Bank suppresses protest through three levels: Legislative, operational and judicial. “Legislatively, the military law that applies to the territory (Military Order 101) prohibits virtually all protest activity, including vigils, processions, publications, and even personal items expressing a political viewpoint.
Operationally, the IDF (the Israeli army) views almost every act of protest as a “disruption of public order” and frequently uses force to disperse demonstrations. In response to rock throwing, soldiers deploy tear gas, water cannons and rubber bullets.
Finally, the military justice system contributes to the suppression of protest through its treatment of demonstrators who are brought to trial. Military courts have a crucial role in preserving the status quo of ongoing and sweeping suppression of freedom of expression and the right to protest in the West Bank. From the ACLU's investigation: "The courts essentially choose to avoid judicial review of the military forces’ actions and practices and use of dispersal means during demonstrations. Dozens of leading Palestinian activists and public committee members have therefore been prosecuted in military courts for organizing and participating in demonstrations all over the West Bank."
Seven years in jail
Following the Arab Spring revolt, dozens of demonstrations, big and small, violent and peaceful, sprang up across Egypt. Throughout 2013, Islamist protestors were killed by Egyptian forces while the government sought new anti-protest laws that set tight restrictions on public demonstration, with penalties for such crimes as failing to alert authorities of the protest to
wearing a mask and carrying a weapon.
Death by hanging, shooting, stoning, or falling from a height
According to Cornell University Law School, "under article 286 and 287 of the Islamic Penal Code, political dissent can be punished by death as 'rebellion' and 'corruption on earth'" which includes hanging, shooting, stoning, and falling from a height.
Travel restrictions, re-education through labor, jail
Yahoo News reports that activists could face up to five years in jail for participation demonstrations against the “China-backed copper mine venture in Myanmar.” According to Section 18 of Myanmar’s criminal code, there is a one-year sentence for protesting without permission.
However, a demonstrator can easily have more serious charges tacked on. Lawyer San Aung says, “The six anti-Letpadaung protesters have instead been charged with more serious public order offenses, including obstructing police and ‘harming the image of the nation.’ The charges are disproportionate. They are facing between four and five years in prison.”
of correction labor
Free speech is not a right afforded to the North Korean people, and as such, according to Amnesty International, “all media is controlled by the state and dissent is not tolerated. Listening to broadcasts, retaining information or disseminating information can result in two years in a ‘labor training camp’ or five years of ‘correction labor.’” The death penalty is also very common
in North Korea. “Public executions, even for offenses not subject to the death penalty under domestic law. Death offenses include, ‘treason against the Fatherland,’ and ‘treason against the people.’”
In 2012, Russian anti-protest laws have increased fines for dissent. Reuters reported, “Participants in protests where public order is violated could now face fines of 300,000 roubles [$5,942 at the current exchange rate]—more than the average annual salary and up from 1,000 roubles. The organizers of such rallies could be fined up to 1 million roubles [$19,824 at the current exchange rate]," at the time, $30,681.54. As of 2013, "organizers and participants" of "mass street actions" could be fined up to 1.5 million roubles [$29,646, at the current exchange rate.] While unsanctioned public gatherings are illegal and have often met with police violence, official offenses for more creative public protest actions have special names like "hooliganism". Additionally, entire social network websites can be blocked from Russian ISPs for any users posting "extremist content" when planning protests opposing the government, and any public anti-anti-gay legislation demonstrations are considered illegal "gay propaganda" with various penalties.
Five years in jail
According to Yahoo, Turkish anti-protest laws include “up to three-year prison sentences for protesters carrying insignia, signs or wearing uniforms resembling those of ‘Illegal organizations’ or for those who unfurl illegal banners or shout banned slogans. It provides for a three to five-year prison sentence for anyone who conceals or partially conceals their face during a
demonstration or public assembly that ‘turns into propaganda for a terrorist organization.’” The minimum prison sentence for offenders who resort to violence, or carry any kind of weapons is four years.
$100,000 in fines/two years in jail
Following 2014 protests, Tasmanian Parliament passed the Workplaces (Protection from Protesters) Act of 2014. Among other restrictions, this sweeping legislation brought about “on-the-spot fines and mandatory jail sentences” for protestors who invade or hinder business. Unless a protest is occurring with permission or in the middle of nowhere, this act gives police the power to arrest demonstrators as they see fit.
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