The International Human Rights Framework on the Right of Peaceful Assembly
The Seychelles 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.
The Seychelles 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.
At regional level, the Seychelles 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 Seychelles is a signatory but not a party to the 1998 Protocol on the African Court on Human and Peoples' Rights.
The Domestic Legal Framework on the Right of Peaceful Assembly
The 1993 Constitution of the Republic of Seychelles contains a Charter of Fundamental Human Rights and Freedoms.Chapter III, Part I, 1993 Constitution.Under Clause 23(1), every person has a right to freedom of peaceful assembly. The right may be subject to such restrictions as may be prescribed by law and necessary in a democratic society:
(a) in the interests of defence, public safety, public order, public morality or public health;
(c) for the protection of the right and freedoms of other persons,
(d) for imposition of restrictions ... on persons who are not citizens of Seychelles.
The Public Order Act of 2013 replaced the colonial-era 1959 Public Order Act, but 18 sections or sub-sections were found unconstitutional by the Constitutional Court in July 2015, including restrictions on the holding of assemblies and provisions that the police could seize footage of the policing of assemblies and the president could impose curfews. A new Public Assembly Act was passed in 2015. This contains some restrictive provisions, including the need to give five days’ notice to the police for assemblies, and empowers the head of the police to end an assembly on broad grounds such as public health, morality and safety, as well as to set conditions on the timing and location of 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 2015 Public Assembly Act authorises the police to end an assembly on broad grounds such as public health, morality, and safety. Where the Commissioner believes that an assembly is being held without prior notification, the police may
use such force as may be reasonably necessary to prevent the holding of, stop or cause to disperse the public assembly or public procession.
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.
There is not believed to be specific legislation in the Seychelles governing use of firearms during assemblies. The use of firearms by the police is generally regulated by Section 33 of the 1959 Police Force Act, which states that:
(1) Any police officer may use any firearms which have been issued to him against
(a) any person in lawful custody charged with or convicted of a felony when such person is escaping or attempting to escape;
(b) any person who by force rescues or attempts to rescue any other person from lawful custody;
(c) any person who by force prevents or attempts to prevent the lawful arrest of himself or of any other person: …
And provided further that the use of firearms under this subsection shall as far as possible be to disable and not to kill.S. 33(1), 1959 Police Force Act.
State Compliance with its Legal Obligations
Views and Concluding Observations of United Nations Treaty Bodies
The Seychelles has not come before the Human Rights Committee in recent years. In its 2018 Universal Periodic Review under the UN Human Rights Council, the Seychelles reported as follows:
The ‘Public Order Act, 1959’ was replaced by the ‘Public Order Act, 2013’, and was one of the legislations identified by the Electoral Reform Process in 2011 as being in need of review and revision. The enactment of the revised Act met with significant criticism, noting that the Act was not fully in line with the recommendations provided by the Electoral Reform Process. In July 2015, the Constitutional Court of Seychelles found 18 sections and subsections of the Act to be unconstitutional. In the same month, the Cabinet of Ministers made a recommendation to the National Assembly to adopt a new Public Assembly Bill, based on the recommendations received during the 2011 Electoral Reform Process. The National Assembly recently passed the new ‘Public Assembly Act, 2015’. The President of Seychelles noted that the swift decision taken after the decision of the Constitutional Court demonstrated the maturity of the democracy, and the country’s commitment to good governance and the rule of law. The case was also a demonstration of the independence of the Judiciary and the effective roles of accountability being practiced by the various arms of Government.
The Seychelles has not submitted a national report to the African Commission on Human and Peoples' Rights since 2006.
Views of Civil Society
According to Freedom House's 2019 report on the Seychelles:
The government passed a revised law in 2015 on public assembly, which several observers credited with permitting a more open and free political environment. However, the law still contains some restrictive provisions, including the need to give five days’ notice to the police for assemblies. It also empowers the head of the police to disperse assemblies on grounds of preserving public health, morality, and safety, and sets conditions on the timing and location of assemblies.