The International Human Rights Framework on the Right of Peaceful Assembly
Mauritius 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.
Mauritius 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, Mauritius 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.
Mauritius is also a state party to the 1998 Protocol on the African Court on Human and Peoples' Rights, but has not allowed the right of petition to the Court by individuals and non-governmental organisations.
The Domestic Legal Framework on the Right of Peaceful Assembly
Article 3 of the 1968 Constitution of the Republic of Mauritius guarantees the right to freedom of assembly. Article 13 further specifies that:
(1) Except with his own consent, no person shall be hindered in the enjoyment of his freedom of assembly and association, that is to say, his right to assemble freely and associate with other persons ...
(2) Nothing contained in or done under the authority of any law shall be held inconsistent with or in contravention of this section to the extent that the law in question makes provision:
(a) in the interests of defence, public safety, public order, public morality or public health;
(b) for the purpose of protecting the rights or freedoms of other persons; or
(c) for the imposition of restrictions upon public officers, except so far that provision or, as the case may be, the thing done under its authority is shown not to be reasonably justifiable in a democratic society.
There does not appear to be separate legislation governing public assemblies.
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 1974 Police Act allows a police officer, in effecting an arrest, to "use such force as may be necessary to ensure compliance".S. 13E(4), 1974 Police Act No. 19 (as amended).It does not therefore incorporate the principle of proportionality, nor does it articulate clearly that force used shall be the minimum necessary in the circumstances.
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.
The Constitution appears to allow use of potentially lethal force to protect property and to suppress a riot. This is more permissive than international law allows.
State Compliance with its Legal Obligations
Views and Concluding Observations of United Nations Treaty Bodies
In its 2017 Concluding Observations on Mauritius, the Human Rights Committee did not address the right of peaceful assembly. The 2018 Universal Periodic Review of Mauritius under the UN Human Rights Council also did not address the issue.
In its 2017 Concluding Observations on Mauritius, the African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights did not address the right of peaceful assembly.
Views of Civil Society
According to Freedom House's 2019 report on Mauritius:
Freedom of assembly is usually upheld. However, in June 2018, the 13th annual Mauritius Pride March was cancelled after police said they might not be able to protect participants from groups of opponents holding antigay signs, some of whom were reportedly armed, that had gathered along the parade route. The main organizer also received a series of death threats ahead of the planned event. Both Prime Minister Jugnauth and the Roman Catholic Church in Mauritius condemned the antigay protesters and regretted the march’s cancellation. Later in June, a smaller pride event was held near the waterfront in Port Louis.