The International Human Rights Framework on the Right of Peaceful Assembly
Kosovo cannot formally adhere to the 1966 International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR), Article 21 of which governs the right of peaceful assembly.
The right of peaceful assembly is, though, a fundamental human right that is part of the corpus of customary international law. It is also a general principle of law.See Art. 38(1), 1945 Statute of the International Court of Justice.
At regional level, Kosovo also cannot formally adhere to the 1950 European Convention on Human Rights, Article 11 governs freedom of assembly and association. According to the Council of Europe, over the last years, the Council has intensified cooperation in Kosovo (without prejudice to its status), "in line with the Council of Europe status neutrality and taking account of democratic developments and neighbourly relations in the region".
The Domestic Legal Framework on the Right of Peaceful Assembly
Article 43 of the 2008 Constitution of the Republic of Kosovo governs "Freedom of Gathering":
Freedom of peaceful gathering is guaranteed. Every person has the right to organize gatherings, protests and demonstrations and the right to participate in them. These rights may be limited by law, if it is necessary to safeguard public order, public health, national security or the protection of the rights of others.
The primary legislation governing assembly in Kosovo is the 2009 Law on Public Gatherings. The Law requires notification to the Kosovo Police of public gatherings 72 hours in advance. Urgent gatherings require at least three hours' notice.
Under Article 8(1) of the Law, the Kosovo Police may prohibit a peaceful public gathering if they consider that:
- the notice for the public gathering was not made on due time,
- it is foreseen to be held in a place that is prohibited under this law,
- the aims of the gathering incite or call for inter-ethnic, religious, racial, political violence and hatred.
- there are substantial reasons that the gathering might be used for violence.
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 use of force by the Kosovo Police is regulated by the 2012 Kosovo Law on Police. Article 26(1) provides that:
A Police Officer has the power to exercise the use of force only when strictly necessary and only to the extent required to achieve a legitimate police objective.
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.
Article 27 of the 2012 Law governs the use of firearms, auithorising a police officer to use a firearm "only when strictly necessary" in order to:
- defend the Police Officer's own life or the life of another person from an imminent attack;
- prevent the imminent commission or continuation of a criminal offense involving grave threat to life;
- arrest a person presenting an imminent threat to the life of other persons and who is resisting orders lawfully issued by the Police Officer; and
- prevent the escape of a person presenting an imminent threat to the life of other persons and who is resisting orders lawfully issued by the Police Officer.
State Compliance with its Legal Obligations
Views and Concluding Observations of United Nations Treaty Bodies
Kosovo is not a state party to the ICCPR.
The OSCE Mission in Kosovo has produced a booklet for the Kosovo Police, which addresses the right of peaceful assembly.
The Council of Europe and the European Union jointly fund a programme, "Reinforcing Judicial Expertise on Freedom of Expression and the Media in South-East Europe (JUFREX)". The programme comprises a series of training activities for the judiciary, regulators, journalists, and public service media, relating to freedom of expression and exercise of human rights, in line with Council of Europe and European standards. The beneficiaries of the programme are: Albania, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Montenegro, North Macedonia, Serbia, and Kosovo.
Views of Civil Society
According to Freedom House's 2019 report on Kosovo:
Freedom of assembly is generally respected, though demonstrations are occasionally restricted for security reasons. A number of demonstrations occurred in 2018 without incident, and there have been few instances of violence at protests in recent years.