The International Human Rights Framework on the Right of Peaceful Assembly
Comoros is a signatory but not a State Party to the 1966 International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR). Article 21 governs the right of peaceful assembly.
At regional level, Comoros 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.
Comoros is a State Party to the 1998 Protocol on the African Court on Human and Peoples' Rights, but has not allowed the right of petition to the Court by individuals and non-governmental organisations.
The Domestic Legal Framework on the Right of Peaceful Assembly
The Preamble to the 2001 Constitution of Comoros (as amended) explicitly guarantees the right to freedom of assembly.
Under Article 91 of the Penal Code, there is a prohibition on the public road or in a public place of "any armed mob" and any unarmed crowd that "could disturb the public peace".
In its 2018 report in the context of the Universal Periodic Review of Comoros under the UN Human Rights Council, the UN Country Team noted that:
Despite legally established rights, the country had experienced a deterioration in the human rights situation and a restriction of public freedoms, as shown by such developments as the prohibition by the executive authorities of peaceful opposition demonstrations or assemblies....
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 Article 91 of the 1981 Penal Code of the Comoros (as amended), the police or other law enforcement agency may use force to disperse an unlawful assembly if violence is used against them or if they cannot defend by other means the area they occupy or for which they are responsible. The amount of force that may be used is not restricted.
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 no specific legislation on police use of firearms during assemblies.
State Compliance with its Legal Obligations
Views and Concluding Observations of United Nations Treaty Bodies
Comoros is not a State Party to the ICCPR. In the 2018 Report of the Working Group on the Universal Periodic Review of Comoros, several States called on the authorities to respect and protect the right of peaceful assembly.
Comoros has not yet submitted any report on its implementation of the 1981 African Charter on Human and Peoples' Rights.
Views of Civil Society
According to Freedom House's report on Comoros for 2018:
Freedoms of assembly and association are protected by the constitution, but these freedoms have been inconsistently upheld, and deteriorated significantly in 2018. Azali [President Azali Assoumani] outlawed demonstrations in May, ahead of the referendum, though anti-government protests nevertheless took place throughout the year and were often met with violence by security forces. In October, violence erupted in Anjouan over the dissolution of the rotating presidency, as the island had been set to hold it next; protesters moreover claimed the new constitution would effectively lock representatives of Anjouan out of power for good. Sporadic gunfire, explosions, water and power cuts, and roadblocks took place during several days of protests, and three people were killed, at least two of whom were shot dead by members of the security forces.