The International Human Rights Framework on the Right of Peaceful Assembly

The Sahrawi Arab Democratic Republic (Western Sahara) is recognised as a state by the African Union but not the United Nations. Therefore, the Sahrawi Arab Democratic Republic (Western Sahara) 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, the Sahrawi Arab Democratic Republic 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. 

The Sahrawi Arab Democratic Republic is a state party to the 1998 Protocol to the African Charter on the African Court but has not recognised the right of individual petition.

The Domestic Legal Framework on the Right of Peaceful Assembly

Constitutional Provisions

The 2015 Constitution of the Sahrawi Arab Democratic Republic does not guarantee the right to freedom of assembly.

National Legislation

There is no national legislation governing assemblies in the Sahrawi Arab Democratic Republic.

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.

National Legislation

There is no national legislation governing use of force by law enforcement agencies in the Republic. 

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 Legislation

There is no national legislation governing use of firearms by law enforcement agencies in the Republic.

State Compliance with its Legal Obligations

Views and Concluding Observations of United Nations Treaty Bodies

The Sahrawi Arab Democratic Republic is not a state party to the ICCPR.

Regional Jurisprudence

In its 2015 Concluding Observations on the Sahrawi Arab Democratic Republic, the African Commission on Human and Peoples' Rights noted efforts to inculcate law enforcement officials with training in human rights

Views of Civil Society

According to Freedom House's 2019 report on the Sahrawi Arab Democratic Republic:

Demonstrations and protests are broken up regularly, particularly on sensitive issues such as self-determination and Sahrawi prisoners held by Morocco. Protesters are frequently arrested and beaten. In June 2018, police assaulted at least seven activists at a protest in Laâyoune during a visit by the UN envoy for Western Sahara.

ACHPR Concluding Observations on the Sahrawi Arab Democratic Republic (2015) - Download (438 KB)