The International Human Rights Framework on the Right of Peaceful Assembly
The Republic of Congo 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.
Congo 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, Congo 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.
Congo is also 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
A new Constitution of the Republic of the Congo was adopted in 2015. According to Article 27 of the Constitution, the State "recognizes and guarantees, within the conditions established by law," the freedom of assembly and of demonstration.
Under national law, Congolese must request authorisation from the authorities to hold a public assembly.
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.
On 5 April 2018, the Council of Ministers adopted two draft Decrees on discipline in the Public Force. The text of the decrees is not publicly available
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.
It is not known if use of firearms during assemblies is specifically governed by Congolese law.
State Compliance with its Legal Obligations
Views and Concluding Observations of United Nations Treaty Bodies
Congo has not come before the Human Rights Committee in recent years.
In April 2016, the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights called on the Government, political leaders and their supporters to endeavour to resolve all differences peacefully and within the law, and to eschew violence in the exercise of the rights to freedom of expression, association and peaceful assembly.
There has been no jurisprudence within the African Commission on Human and Peoples' Rights concerning the right of peaceful assembly in Congo.
Views of Civil Society
In July 2020, several human rights organisations, including the Observatoire Congolais des Droits de l'Homme (Congolese Human Rights Observatory) and social movement Ras-le-Bol, said they decided to cancel a planned protest to support the request for a medical evacuation of imprisoned opposition leader Jean-Marie Michel Mokoko after the prefect of Brazzaville banned the protest, stating grounds of curbing the spread of COVID-19.
According to Freedom House's report on Congo for 2018:
The government restricts freedom of assembly. Groups must receive official authorization from local and federal authorities to hold public assemblies, and permission is routinely denied. Government forces sometimes employ violence against protesters or disperse assemblies. In 2017, authorities denied a coalition of NGOs permission to hold a demonstration in the capital drawing attention to human rights abuses in prisons and elsewhere.