The International Human Rights Framework on the Right of Peaceful Assembly
Guinea 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.
Guinea 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, Guinea 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.
Guinea 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
Under Article 10 of the 2010 Constitution of Guinea, all citizens have the right of demonstration and of procession.
In the context of its 2015 Universal Periodic Review under the UN Human Rights Council, Guinea stated that it "was working to strengthen its legal framework with a view to improving the exercise" of the right of peaceful assembly. Guinea indicated that the State "intended to punish all those responsible for violence, agents of the defence and security forces and demonstrators alike".
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.
The 2015 Law on the Maintenance of Public Order allows the police to use force to disperse an unlawful assembly.
The 2016 Police Code of Ethics stipulates that the national police will perform its duties in accordance with the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, international conventions, the Constitution, and national law.Decree No. D/2016/262/PRG/SGG of 25 August 2016.
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.
Use of force by the police is governed by a 1998 Code of Practice. Article 9 provides that: "When authorized by law to use force and, in particular, to use a firearm, a police officer may only use it in a manner that is strictly necessary and proportionate to the goal to be achieved."
The 2015 Law on the Maintenance of Public Order allows police use of firearms "when the accomplishment of their mission is clearly compromised".
In June 2019, Guinea’s National Assembly passed a law proposed by the government on the use of firearms by the gendarmerie. The law sets out several justifications for the use of force, including to defend positions gendarmes occupy. This does not comply with international law.
State Compliance with its Legal Obligations
Views and Concluding Observations of United Nations Treaty Bodies
In its 2018 Concluding Observations on Guinea, the Human Rights Committee expressed concern at
reports that demonstrations, particularly by opposition parties, have been arbitrarily prohibited and that mass arrests have been carried out during demonstrations.
It called on Guinea to "ensure that, with regard to peaceful demonstrations, all restrictions that are not strictly necessary and proportional within the meaning of article 21 of the Covenant are lifted". The Committee was also concerned "about allegations of disproportionate restrictions on the freedoms of expression and peaceful assembly when states of siege or emergency are declared".
Guinea has not yet submitted a national report to the African Commission on Human and Peoples' Rights.
Views of Civil Society
According to Freedom House's 2021 report on Guinea:
Freedom of assembly is enshrined in the constitution, but this right is often restricted. Assemblies held without notification as required by Guinean law are considered unauthorized, and are often violently dispersed, leading to deaths, injuries, and arrests. Restrictions on public gatherings were introduced in April 2020 as part of the government’s efforts to limit the spread of COVID-19. Modified restrictions remained in force through much of the year but were loosened in December.
Despite these restrictions, major demonstrations occurred during the year. Protests against President Conté’s constitution project, which began in 2019, continued in 2020, though they were partially suspended due to pandemic-related measures. In October, Amnesty International counted at least 50 deaths and 200 injuries resulting from the crackdown against that campaign, along with other protests, between October 2019 and July 2020. Protests related to the March and October elections were also dispersed violently. Amnesty International reported that security forces used live ammunition and tear gas against demonstrators in October.
Guineans also protested against the imposition of COVID-19 restrictions and faced violent government responses. For example, in May 2020, protesters in the town of Coyah clashed with security forces over travel restrictions and accusations of corrupt enforcement. Five people were killed in that incident.