The UK government was warned Tuesday by the U.N. that handing out long jail sentences to climate protesters could stifle public displays of dissent.
The Just Stop Oil protesters in question caused traffic gridlock after scaling the Dartford Crossing Bridge for almost 40 hours in October last year, as Breitbart News reported.
They were later accused of having “blood on their hands” after two women died in car crashes after being diverted from the bridge after the anti-fossil fuel activists had shut it down.
Insulate Britain Invokes WW2 Collateral Damage to Justify Deaths Caused by Protests https://t.co/tDX1bYYVpy
— Breitbart London (@BreitbartLondon) October 5, 2021
The BBC reports Morgan Trowland, 40, was jailed for three years and Marcus Decker, 34, for two years for causing a public nuisance.
In response to the U.N., the BBC report set out the government maintained the right to protest is a fundamental part of the UK’s democracy but the “law-abiding majority” must be able to go about their daily business.
At an appeal hearing last month Lady Chief Justice, Lady Carr defended the sentences, saying they met a “legitimate” aim of deterring others from such offending. The activists were refused permission to challenge them in the Supreme Court.
The warning comes in a letter shown to BBC News, sent to the government by the U.N. Special Rapporteur on the promotion and protection of human rights in the context of climate change, Ian Fry, on 15 August this year.
The sentences are “significantly more severe than previous sentences imposed for this type of offending in the past,” Fry notes, adding he is worried about “the exercise of their rights to freedom of expression and freedom of peaceful assembly and association.”
The letter goes on to say the new Public Order Act which came into force in July “appears to be a direct attack on the right to the freedom of peaceful assembly.”
The new legislation includes measures aimed at curbing disruptive protests, the BBC notes.
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The letter sent in mid-August requested a reply within 60 days but has not received one, which the U.N. special rapporteur described as “troubling.”
“Most countries take these letters seriously and respond,” Fry told BBC News. He suggested the lack of a formal reply reflected “a general disregard for human rights concerns by the current government”.
The Home Office said it had “responded” to the special rapporteur’s letter.