The International Human Rights Framework on the Right of Peaceful Assembly
Burkina Faso is a State Party to the 1966 International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR). Article 21 governs the right of peaceful assembly, providing that:
The right of peaceful assembly shall be recognized. No restrictions may be placed on the exercise of this right other than those imposed in conformity with the law and which are necessary in a democratic society in the interests of national security or public safety, public order (ordre public), the protection of public health or morals or the protection of the rights and freedoms of others.
Burkina Faso is also a State Party to the First Optional Protocol to the ICCPR, which allows individuals to petition the Human Rights Committee if they believe the State has violated their human rights as protected under the Covenant.
At regional level, Burkina Faso is a State Party to the 1981 African Charter on Human and Peoples' Rights. Article 11 provides as follows:
Every individual shall have the right to assemble freely with others. The exercise of this right shall be subject only to necessary restrictions provided for by law in particular those enacted in the interest of national security, the safety, health, ethics and rights and freedoms of others.
Burkina Faso is a State Party to the 1998 Protocol on the African Court on Human and Peoples' Rights and has accepted the right of petition to the Court by individuals and non-governmental organisations.
The Domestic Legal Framework on the Right of Peaceful Assembly
Article 7 of the 1991 Constitution of Burkina Faso (as amended) guarantees the freedom of assembly and of demonstration, subject to "respect for the law, for public order, for good morals and for the human person".
The primary legislation in Burkina Faso is the 1997 Law on Meetings and Demonstrations. A notification system is applied to public assemblies. In case of a public meeting, a written notification must be submitted to the Minister of Public Freedoms no later than 72 hours before the assembly is to be held. An "office" (Secretariat) must be set up by the organisers.
In case of a public demonstration or procession of a "national or international character", a written notification must be submitted to the Minister of Public Freedoms no later than 72 hours before the assembly is to be held. Otherwise the local administrative authorities must be notified. In case of "circumstances demanding it", the authorities may prohibit the demonstration.
At any time, the authorities may prohibit any public assembly. Any such decision is subject to appeal.
The Legal Framework on Use of Force During Assemblies
The Use of Force
International Legal Rules
Under international law, the duty on the State and its law enforcement agencies is to facilitate the enjoyment of the right of peaceful assembly. According to the 1990 United Nations Basic Principles on the Use of Force and Firearms by Law Enforcement Officials:
In the dispersal of assemblies that are unlawful but non-violent, law enforcement officials shall avoid the use of force or, where that is not practicable, shall restrict such force to the minimum extent necessary.
All force used by police and other law enforcement agencies must be necessary for a legitimate law enforcement purpose and prioportionate to that purpose.
Article 132(3) of the 2018 Penal Code stipulates that a person will not be held criminally responsible if he or she
in the face of a present or imminent danger that threatens himself or another person or property, performs an act necessary to safeguard the person or property, unless there is a disproportion between the means employed and the severity of the threat.
The Use of Firearms
International Legal Rules
According to the 1990 United Nations Basic Principles, in the dispersal of violent assemblies, a law enforcement official may only use a firearm against a specific individual where this is necessary to confront an imminent threat of death or serious injury or a grave and proximate threat to life.
The use of firearms is regulated by the 2003 Law on Internal Security. This allows the use of firearms:
- when serious and generalized violence or assault is engaged against them
- when they are threatened by armed individuals
- where they can not otherwise defend the land they occupy, protect the installations, tasks or the people entrusted to them; or
- if the resistance is such that it can not be defeated other than by force of arms.Art. 13, 2003 Law on Internal Security.
This is more permissive than international law allows.
State Compliance with its Legal Obligations
Views and Concluding Observations of United Nations Treaty Bodies
In its 2016 Concluding Observations on Burkina Faso's initial report on its implementation of the ICCPR, the Human Rights Committee did not address the right of peaceful assembly.
The 2018 Universal Periodic Review of Burkina Faso under the UN Human Rights Council also did not address the right of peaceful assembly.
In its 2015 Concluding observations on Burkina Faso, the African Commission on Human and Peoples' Rights welcomed the measures taken by the government to ensure that law enforcement officials could "better handle demonstrations".
Views of Civil Society
CIVICUS has reported that between 700 and 1000 people marched in Fada N’Gourma, eastern Burkina Faso, on 13 June 2020, against abuses against the population, in particular the Fulani community, and insecurity in eastern Burkina Faso. Protesters say that the civilian 'homeland defense volunteers' units, set up by the government in the fight against terrorist attacks, were targeting and stigmatising mainly members of the Fulani community.
In its 2019 report on Burkina Faso, Freedom House stated that:
The constitution guarantees freedom of assembly, which is largely upheld in practice. Under the new government, space for demonstrations and protests has opened. Several peaceful protests took place in 2018.