The International Human Rights Framework on the Right of Peaceful Assembly
Guinea-Bissau 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-Bissau is not 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-Bissau 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-Bissau 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 54 of the 1984 Constitution of the Republic of Guinea-Bissau
1. Citizens have the right of peaceful assembly in public areas, according to law.
2. The right of all citizens to demonstrate is recognised, according to law.
Assemblies in Guinea-Bissau are regulated by Law 3/92 of 1992. According to Article 6 of the 1992 Law, organisers are required to notify their intent to hold an assembly to the Ministry of Internal Affairs and to the police at least four days in advance.
Article 5 of the Law limits assemblies to Sundays, public holidays, Saturdays after 1pm, and weekdays after 7 pm.
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.
Police use of force in Guinea-Bissau is generally restricted by the principles of necessity and proportionality.
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.
A 2010 law allows firearms to be used in a number of scenarios, such as to confront imminent or ongoing violence directed at a police officer or a third party, or to prevent a “serious and imminent attack on socially beneficial installations whose destruction would cause material injury".Art. 15, 2010 Organic Statute of the Judiciary Police, Presidential Decree 14/2010 of 15 November 2010.
State Compliance with its Legal Obligations
Views and Concluding Observations of United Nations Treaty Bodies
Guinea-Bissau has not yet come before the Human Rights Committee.
In its national report for its 2015 Universal Periodic Review under the UN Human Rights Council, Guinea-Bissau did not address the right of peaceful assembly.
Guinea-Bissau has not yet submitted a national report to the African Commission on Human and Peoples' Rights. In 2018, the Commission conducted a fact-finding mission to Guinea-Bissau.
Views of Civil Society
According to Freedom House's 2021 report on Guinea-Bissau:
Freedom of assembly is frequently restricted. The authorities repeatedly interfere with demonstrations linked to the political tensions between the presidency and the legislature. The state of emergency enforced due to the COVID-19 pandemic banned assemblies of more than 25 people. The restrictions were prolonged by President Embaló for nearly six months and prevented protesters from gathering during a period of high political tension. However, the restrictions were not equally enforced: in September, Embaló organized an event to celebrate the anniversary of the country’s independence that was attended by more than 15,000 people. Embaló also held several rallies during the lockdown. Restrictions were only partially lifted in December 2020.