The International Human Rights Framework on the Right of Peaceful Assembly
Cabo Verde 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.
Cabo Verde 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, Cabo Verde 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.
Cabo Verde is not a state party to the 1998 Protocol on the African Court on Human and Peoples' Rights.
The Domestic Legal Framework on the Right of Peaceful Assembly
The 1992 Constitution of Cabo Verde (as revised in 2010) protects fundamental human rights. The freedom to demonstrate is generally protected in Article 29. Article 53 provides as follows:
1. Citizens shall have the right to assemble, peacefully and without arms, even in places open to the public without the need for authorization.
2. The right to demonstrate shall be recognized for all citizens.
3. Assembly, when it is to occur in places open to the public, and demonstration must be communicated to the appropriate authorities in advance, under the terms of the law.
The primary legislation guaranteeing and governing the right of assembly is the 1974 Legislative Decree 406. The content of the Decree is not known.
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 proportionate to that purpose.
Under the 2007 Organic Law, the National Police are mandated to maintain public order, safety, and tranquility and to protect people and their property. In its 2018 national report on its implementation of the ICCPR, Cabo Verde stated that:
The police authority engagement must be strictly guided by the principles of legality, necessity, adequacy and proportionality. They must observe the rights, freedoms and guarantees of the citizens, which includes and applies to the situations of exercising the right of manifestation [demonstration] and peaceful assembly.
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 specific legislation governing when the police may lawfully use firearms does not comply with international law as it is too permissive. According to Article 96(4) of the 2010 Statute of Police Personnel of the National Police:
The use of firearms is permitted as a measure of extreme coercion provided that it is proportionate to the circumstances of each case.
In its 2018 national report on its implementation of the ICCPR, Cabo Verde stated that:
The law indicates the situations in which public authorities are allowed to use weapon [a firearm], notably, for own self-defence or self-defence of others; to effect or maintain detention or to prevent the flight of an individual suspected of having committed a serious crime; to conduct the arrest of an individual who has been evaded or who is the subject of an order or warrant for the commission of a crime; to free hostages; to prevent a serious and imminent attack on facilities of public or social utility, the destruction of which causes material injury, to defend a service station or facility under its custody; by order of their superiors. The use of a firearm by a police officer obliges him/her to report its use as shortly as possible and, if he/she has caused injury to any person, he/she has the duty to provide assistance.
State Compliance with its Legal Obligations
Views and Concluding Observations of United Nations Treaty Bodies
In its 2012 Concluding Observations on Cabo Verde (in the absence of an 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 Cabo Verde under the UN Human Rights Council also did not address the right of peaceful assembly.
The African Commission on Human and Peoples' Rights has not addressed the right of peaceful assembly in Cabo Verde.
Views of Civil Society
According to Freedom House's 2019 report on Cabo Verde:
Freedom of assembly is legally guaranteed and observed in practice. A number of demonstrations took place in 2018, including ones against unemployment and other economic difficulties, as well as in support of the national police chief, Elias Silva, who was suspended in April after calling for fewer restrictions on gun ownership.