The International Human Rights Framework on the Right of Peaceful Assembly
The Central African Republic 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.
The Central African Republic is 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, the Central African Republic 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.
The Central African Republic is a signatory but 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
According to Article 10 of the 2016 Constitution of the Central African Republic, freedom of assembly is guaranteed to all "within the conditions established by law".
In its 2018 Periodic Report under the ICCPR, the Central African Republic stated that:
as a result of interreligious and intercommunal conflict in the aftermath of the coup d’état of 24 March 2013, the freedom of assembly is subject to a number of restrictions for reasons of national security. ...
With the return to constitutional legality, the Government intends to regularize this situation, which is otherwise developing positively.
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.
It seems that the use of force by law enforcement agencies is not explicitly regulated by domestic law. The content of Act No. 08.016 of 20 May 2008 on the special status of the Central African police is not known.
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.
There is not believed to be specific regulation of police use of firearms in the Central African Republic.
State Compliance with its Legal Obligations
Views and Concluding Observations of United Nations Treaty Bodies
In its 2020 Concluding Observations on the Central African Republic, the Human Rights Committee did not address the right of peaceful assembly. The 2019 Universal Periodic Review of the Central African Republic alsodid not address the right of peaceful assembly.
In its Resolution 266 of 2014 on the human rights situation in the Central African Republic, the African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights called on the transitional Government in CAR
to take the necessary measures to stop all acts of violence against the civilian population throughout the national territory and to bring the perpetrators before the competent courts.
Views of Civil Society
In early 2021, CIVICUS reported that an African Union-backed peace deal between 14 armed groups and CAR’s government brokered in February 2019 was further undermined by the creation of a new rebel coalition, Coalition des patriotes pour le changement (CPC), in December 2020 in the run-up to the presidential and legislative elections.
In its 2019 report on the Central African Republic, Freedom House stated that:
Although freedom of assembly and the right to political protest is guaranteed under the constitution, in practice these liberties continued to be curtailed in 2018 due to widespread insecurity.
In April, demonstrators placed outside the United Nations office in Bangui the bodies of over a dozen people they said were civilians killed in clashes between UN forces and armed groups. A UN spokesperson condemned the action as propaganda, and said the dead were criminals who had attacked UN forces.
CIVICUS has previously reported that:
While Article 8 of CAR’s new constitution guarantees the freedom of assembly, it is subject to conditions set down in law, and in recent practice this right has been strictly controlled by the Ministry of the Interior. The Ministry had to approve all applications for public gatherings, while security forces and armed rebel groups regularly dispersed demonstrators. Public spaces are still reported to be particularly volatile in remote parts of the country, where continued attacks by rebel groups in 2015 created fear within the civilian population.