The International Human Rights Framework on the Right of Peaceful Assembly
Saint Vincent and the Grenadines 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.
Saint Vincent and the Grenadines is also a 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.
Saint Vincent and the Grenadines is a member of the Organization of American States, but has not adhered to the 1969 Inter-American Convention on Human Rights.
The Domestic Legal Framework on the Right of Peaceful Assembly
Section 11(1) of the 1979 Constitution of Saint Vincent and the Grenadines provides for the right to assemble freely but this right is subject to the following exceptions in paragraph 2 of Section 11:
to the extent that the law in question makes provision:
a. that is reasonably required in the interests of defence, public safety, public order, public morality or public health;
b. that is reasonably required for the purpose of protecting the rights or freedoms of other persons; or
c. that imposes restrictions upon public officers that are reasonably required for the proper performance of their functions,
and except so far as that provisions or, as the case may be, the thing done under the authority thereof is shown not to be reasonably justifiable in a democratic society.
There is no dedicated legislation on the right of peaceful assembly in Saint Vincent and the Grenadines .
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 Royal Saint Vincent and the Grenadines Police Force is governed by the 1947 Police Act (as amended). Section 57(c) of the Act stipulates that a constable shall:
refrain from striking or using force towards any person in charge, other than may be absolutely necessary for safe custody and strictly in his own defence....
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 1947 Police Act does not regulate the use of firearms by the Police though it does lay down prizes "for musketry".S. 107, 1947 Police Act (as amended).The 1995 Firearms Act of St Vincent and the Grenadines also does not regulate the use of firearms by the Police Force. The Constitutional provisions, which apply to any use of firearms by the police, are more permissive than international law allows.
State Compliance with its Legal Obligations
Views and Concluding Observations of United Nations Treaty Bodies
In its 2019 Concluding Observations on St Vincent and the Grenadines, the Human Rights Committee did not address the right of peaceful assembly. The issue was also not addressed during the last Universal Periodic Review of St Vincent and the Grenadines in 2016.
Views of Civil Society
Acording to Freedom House's 2019 report on St Vincent and the Grenadines:
Freedom of assembly is constitutionally protected and generally upheld in practice. There were reports of police using excessive force to disperse peaceful protests during the 2015 election period, but similar incidents have not been reported in recent years.