The International Human Rights Framework on the Right of Peaceful Assembly
Saint Kitts and Nevis is not a State Party 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, Saint Kitts and Nevis is not a State Party to the 1969 Inter-American Convention on Human Rights, which also guarantees the right of peaceful assembly.
The Domestic Legal Framework on the Right of Peaceful Assembly
Under the Constitution, every person in Saint Christopher and Nevis is entitled to the right to freedom of assembly.
There is no dedicated national legislation governing assemblies in St Kitts and Nevis.
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.
Police use of force is governed by the Criminal Code. In accordance with Section 45, an unlawful or riotous assembly may be suppressed or dispersed using reasonable force.
Section 32 regulates use of force in arrest, detention, or recapture of person committing an indictable offence. Under this provision, if a person who has committed an indictable offence avoids arrest by resistance or flight or escapes or endeavours to escape from custody, the police is entitled to "use any force which is necessary for his arrest, detention, or recapture".
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.
Section 32 of the Criminal Code allows an escaping criminal to be killed, if "he cannot by any means otherwise be arrested, detained, or retaken".
State Compliance with its Legal Obligations
Views and Concluding Observations of United Nations Treaty Bodies
Saint Kitts and Nevis is not a State Party to the ICCPR.
In the 2015 Universal Periodic Review of Saint Kitts and Nevis under the UN Human Rights Council, the right of peaceful assembly was not addressed in detail. But in its 2015 paper, the subregional UN team stated that, since the 2011 UPR,
there had been occasional media reports of police brutality and that, in 2013, it had been reported that riot police dragged and beat the former leader of the opposition People’s Action Movement during a march that had been previously sanctioned by the security forces.