The International Human Rights Framework on the Right of Peaceful Assembly
Cyprus 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.
Cyprus 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, Cyprus is a state party to the 1950 European Convention on Human Rights. Article 11 governs freedom of assembly and association:
1. Everyone has the right to freedom of peaceful assembly and to freedom of association with others, including the right to form and to join trade unions for the protection of his interests.
2. No restrictions shall be placed on the exercise of these rights other than such as are prescribed by law and are necessary in a democratic society in the interests of national security or public safety, for the prevention of disorder or crime, for the protection of health or morals or for the protection of the rights and freedoms of others. This Article shall not prevent the imposition of lawful restrictions on the exercise of these rights by members of the armed forces, of the police or of the administration of the State.
The Domestic Legal Framework on the Right of Peaceful Assembly
Article 21 of the 1960 Constitution of Cyprus addresses the right to freedom of assembly. Under paragraph 1 of that provision: "Every person has the right to freedom of peaceful assembly." Paragraph 3 provides that no restrictions shall be placed on the exercise of this right
other than such as are prescribed by law and are absolutely necessary only in the interests of the security of the Republic or the constitutional order or the public safety or the public order or the public health or the public morals or for the protection of the rights and liberties guaranteed by this Constitution to any person, whether or not such person participates in such assembly or is a member of such association.
There is no requirement to seek authorisation for an assembly in Cyprus. Indeed, there are no regulations in Cypriot law generally governing the holding of public assemblies. Under Section 22(1) of the 1959 Police Act, however, it is the duty of the police to prevent obstructions on the public highway "or at other places of public resort" during assemblies.
Under Section 41(1) of the 1985 Municipalities Law, "No person shall organize or take part in any public assembly to listen to any speech or conversation on any subject related or indirectly to an election on the day of the poll or on the eve of such a day."
In 2018, a Report by the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights stated that: "the persistent division of the island still hinders the full enjoyment of all human rights and fundamental freedoms".
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.
Article 32 of the 2001 Code of Police Ethics provides that: "The Police use force only when strictly necessary and only to the extent required to obtain a legitimate objective." According to Article 37:
The police in carrying out their duties, always take into consideration everyone’s fundamental rights, such as freedom of thought, conscience, religion, expression, work, peaceful assembly, movement and the peaceful enjoyment of possessions.
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 Constitution of Cyprus seemingly allows the police to use firearms purely to protect property, including during an assembly. This is not permissible under international law.
State Compliance with its Legal Obligations
Views and Concluding Observations of United Nations Treaty Bodies
In its 2015 Concluding Observations on Cyprus, the Human Rights Committee did not address the right of peaceful assembly. The 2019 Universal Periodic Review of Cyprus under the Human Rights Council also did not address the right of peaceful assembly.
Cyprus v. Turkey (2001)
In its judgment in this case, the Grand Chamber of the European Court of Human Rights found a numerous violations by Turkey of the European Convention on the territory of Cyprus but rejected the allegation of a violation of the right of freedom of assembly. Cyprus had complained, among other things, about Turkey's "longstanding policy of impeding the enclaved population's right to take part in organised or ad hoc gatherings" and that "the Greek-Cypriot and Maronite populations were prevented from freely foregathering, meeting or assembling either outside their villages in the “TRNC” or by crossing the cease-fire line to the buffer-zone, or by visiting the free area".
Adali v. Turkey (2005)
In its judgment in this case, the European Court observed that there seemed to be no law regulating the issuance of permits to Turkish Cypriots living in northern Cyprus to cross the “green line” into southern Cyprus in order to engage in peaceful assembly with Greek Cypriots. Therefore, the manner in which restrictions were imposed on the applicant’s exercise of her freedom of assembly was not “prescribed by law”.