The International Human Rights Framework on the Right of Peaceful Assembly
The Marshall Islands adhered to the 1966 International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR) in 2018. 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.
The Marshall Islands 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.
There is not yet a regional human rights treaty to which Pacific nations can adhere despite discussions going back decades as to the possibility of establishing a regional mechanism.
The Domestic Legal Framework on the Right of Peaceful Assembly
The 1979 Constitution of the Marshall Islands (as amended) guarantees that: "Every person has the right to freedom of peaceful assembly."S. 1(1), 1979 Constitution of the Marshall Islands (as amended).Reasonable restrictions may, however, be imposed by law on the time, place, or manner of conduct, provided:
(a) the restrictions are necessary to preserve public peace, order, health, or security or the rights or freedoms of others;
(b) there exist no less restrictive means of doing so; and
(c) the restrictions do not penalize conduct on the basis of disagreement with the ideas or beliefs expressed.S. 1(2), 1979 Constitution of the Marshall Islands (as amended).
There is not believed to be separate legislation governing the right of peaceful assembly in the Marshall Islands.
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 2004 Marshall Islands Criminal Procedure Act expressly regulates police use of force. Section 117 provides that:
In all cases where the person arrested refuses to submit or attempts to escape, such degree of force may be used as is necessary to compel submission.
This does not set limits to the use of force as the principle of proportionality requires.
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.
National law does not expressly regulate police use of firearms.
State Compliance with its Legal Obligations
Views and Concluding Observations of United Nations Treaty Bodies
The Marshall Islands has not yet come before the Human Rights Committee. The 2015 Universal Periodic Review of the Marshall Islands did not address the right of peaceful assembly.
Views of Civil Society
According to Freedom House's 2019 report on the Marshall Islands:
The government upholds constitutional guarantees of freedom of assembly. Protests in recent years have addressed issues including climate change, women’s rights, and the legacy of US nuclear weapons tests in the country.