The International Human Rights Framework on the Right of Peaceful Assembly
Kyrgyzstan 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.
Kyrgyzstan 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.
There is no regional human rights treaty for Central Asia to which Kyrgyzstan could adhere.
The Domestic Legal Framework on the Right of Peaceful Assembly
Article 34 of the 2010 Constitution of the Kyrgyz Republic provides that:
1. Everyone shall have the right to freedom of peaceful assembly. No one may be forced to participate in the assembly.
2. In order to ensure the conduct of a peaceful assembly everyone shall have the right to submit notice to state authorities. Prohibition and limitation on conduct of a peaceful assembly shall not be allowed; the same applies to refusal to duly ensure it failing to submit notice on conduct of free assembly, non-compliance with the form of notice, its contents and submission deadlines.
3. The organizers and participants in peaceful assemblies shall not be liable for the absence of notice on the conduct of a peaceful assembly, non-compliance with the form of notice, its contents and submission deadline.
The primary legislation governing assembly in Kyrgyzstan is the Law of Kyrgyz Republic “On Peaceful Assemblies” of 23 May 2012. According to Article 2(2) of the Law:
Application of the right to freedom of peaceful assembly may not be subject to any limitations except for those imposed under laws to protect national security, public order, health and morals of the population or protection of the rights and freedoms of others. Limitation of the freedom of peaceful assembly shall be proportionate to the specified purposes.
A notification requirement is laid down in Article 11(1) of the 2012 Law:
Peaceful assembly notification shall be made by organizers in writing, no earlier than 30 days before and no later than 2 working days before conduct of the assembly. The notification may be made by sending a letter, a telegram, a teletype message, by post, facsimile, electronic mail or other communication facility or other means or other form.
Under Article 11(3), the authorities and local government "shall have the right to propose change of the peaceful assembly date, place, also route of movement in case if valid information is available about conduct of other peaceful assemblies or other circumstances that may affect safety of citizens."
According to Article 15(2), a decision to prohibit an assembly shall be made in cases when the assembly purposes are unlawful, including:
- war propaganda,
- promotion of ethnic, racial or religious hatred, gender-based on another social superiority, posing instigation to discrimination, hostility or violence;
- calls for violation of national security, public order, rights and freedoms of others;
- conduct of a counter-assembly with the purpose of wrecking another peaceful 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.
There is not believed to be national legislation in place governing police use of force. As the OSCE has reported, "Kyrgyz law currently defines the duties of police officers, yet it is largely silent on how officers are to carry out these duties." Under Article 17 of the 2012 Law on Peaceful Assemblies, however:
1. Use of force for assembly termination shall be an extreme measure.
2. It shall be prohibited to use physical force, including special methods of hand-to-hand fighting, means at hand, special means and arms, if an assembly with illegitimate purposes does not resort to violence or use of arms.
3. Force shall be used for assembly termination, including cases of mass riots that require extreme action, in view of the requirements of the present Law and as stipulated by legislation.
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.
According to Article 17(1) of the 2012 Law on Peaceful Assemblies: "Use of force for assembly termination shall be an extreme measure." Article 17(2) prohibits the use of "physical force, including special methods of hand-to-hand fighting, means at hand, special means and firearms, if an assembly with illegitimate purposes does not resort to violence or use of firearms". Article 17(3) dictates that force "shall be used for assembly termination, including cases of mass riots that require extreme action, ... as stipulated by legislation".
State Compliance with its Legal Obligations
Views and Concluding Observations of United Nations Treaty Bodies
In its 2014 Concluding Observations on Kyrgyzstan, the Human Rights Committee did not address the right of peaceful assembly. In its national report for its 2014 Universal Periodic Review under the UN Human Rights Council, Kyrgyzstan reported that: "The Peaceful Assembly Act was extensively revised to bring national legislation into conformity with the provisions of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights." It further reported that:
Pursuant to the Peaceful Assembly Act, Kyrgyz nationals, including activists from the non-governmental sector and representatives of political parties, may exercise their right to peaceful assembly without hindrance. ...
It should be noted that the use of armed force is not allowed in the control of public order and security during peaceful assemblies.
Views of Civil Society
According to Freedom House's 2021 report on Kyrgyzstan:
A 2012 law allows peaceful assembly, and small protests and civil disobedience actions, such as blocking roads, take place regularly. Nevertheless, domestic and international watchdogs have voiced concerns over violations of assembly rights, including arrests and other forms of interference. Far-right groups and criminal organizations are also known to intimidate and attack demonstrators.
Demonstrators faced campaigns of violence and detention in 2020. Masked men attacked female activists attending a Bishkek march commemorating International Women’s Day in March, resulting in several injuries. Police then detained over 70 activists as well as 3 journalists, denying them access to legal counsel or explaining why they were detained; few of the assailants were arrested. In June, a Bishkek court ruled that the demonstration was not authorized and fined 11 participants. In November, however, the Supreme Court found the police action unconstitutional.
Protests held after the October 2020 elections were also marred by violence. Over 600 people were injured in clashes within two days of the poll, and one person was reportedly killed. The building housing the parliament and president’s office was damaged after protests on October 6. Then president Jeenbekov declared martial law in Bishkek on October 9, though a state of emergency was rolled back several days later.
Japarov supporters attacked and intimidated protesters and opposition groups after the annulled elections, notably disrupting a rally held to support a potential anti-Japarov transitional government on October 9. Ata-Meken parliamentary candidate Tilek Toktogaziyev was seriously injured during the rally, while a car carrying former president Atambayev, who was freed from GKNB custody earlier that month and attended the rally, was shot at. Protests opposing the draft constitution were held in November.