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Police Stop Peaceful Demonstrators Outside WTO

For Immediate Release:
Contact: Richard Hill: +41 77 428 6184, rhill@alum.mit.edu

As civil society representatives are already dealing with unprecedented restrictions on their participation at the 12th World Trade Organization (WTO) Ministerial, they are now additionally facing harassment from Geneva police (photos here).

On Sunday, 12 June 2022, the opening day of the WTO Ministerial, the WTO barred accredited non-governmental organizations (NGOs) from entering the WTO. Three groups of civil society representatives stood on the footpaths holding signs to express their concerns to delegations as they entered the premises. All were promptly approached by Geneva police, who photographed their identification and told them they were not permitted within 200 meters of the WTO.

All of the groups consisted of three or fewer people silently holding banners, not blocking the footpaths. When asked to leave, they all packed their banners and started walking away.

The first group moved more than 700 meters away, but were again stopped by police.

The second group moved 200 meters, after which one person left and another remained on the sidewalk in a public area outside the barricades, near where delegations were entering. An armored van soon appeared, and several police in tactical gear approached her, again requesting identification.

At this point, the third group, which consisted of two people standing across the street silently and without signs or banners, were told by police to join the solo protestor to be searched. Once the three protestors were together, eight police in tactical gear formed a semicircle preventing the protestors from leaving, and preventing the delegations arriving from seeing the messages on their t-shirts, which called for a “Real TRIPS Waiver Now.”

Police thoroughly searched two of the protestors, removing every item from every pocket of their
backpacks. They leafed page-by-page through all the documents in the bag, photographing them, and unrolled and photographed their banners.

The fact that police are blocking peaceful protest outside the WTO is particularly problematic because the WTO is only allowing one representative per NGO inside their building at a time. More than a dozen civil society representatives from around the world who were granted WTO Ministerial accreditation knew they would not be able to enter the WTO because of this, but traveled to Geneva anyway hoping to influence negotiators outside the WTO.

If NGOs — who are accredited to a Ministerial Conference held in Geneva of an intergovernmental organisation (IGO) like the WTO — cannot simply stand on a public footpath wearing a t-shirt, it calls into question whether Geneva is fit to host IGOs and their conferences.