The International Human Rights Framework on the Right of Peaceful Assembly
Slovakia 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.
Slovakia 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, Slovakia is a State Party to the 1950 European Convention on Human Rights. Article 11 governs freedom of assembly and association:
1. Everyone has the right to freedom of peaceful assembly and to freedom of association with others, including the right to form and to join trade unions for the protection of his interests.
2. No restrictions shall be placed on the exercise of these rights other than such as are prescribed by law and are necessary in a democratic society in the interests of national security or public safety, for the prevention of disorder or crime, for the protection of health or morals or for the protection of the rights and freedoms of others. This Article shall not prevent the imposition of lawful restrictions on the exercise of these rights by members of the armed forces, of the police or of the administration of the State.
The Domestic Legal Framework on the Right of Peaceful Assembly
Article 28(1) of the 1992 Constitution of the Slovak Republic guarantees the right to peaceful assembly. According to paragraph 2:
The conditions under which this right may be exercised shall be provided by a law in cases of assemblies held in public places, if it is regarding measures necessary in a democratic society for the protection of the rights and freedoms of others, for the protection of public order, health and morals, property or of national security. An assembly shall not be subject to a permission of a body of public administration.
The Law on the Right to Assembly is the primary legislation in Slovakia governing assemblies. Notification of assemblies to the local municipality is required under the law. The municipality may prohibit the assembly if, among other things, it incites violence or hatred or may disturb the traffic.
If the assembly deviates from the stipulated purpose, it may be dispersed.
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.
According to Section 50(4) of the Act No. 171/1993:
Depending on the particular situation, the police will decide which type of force they use, in order to achieve the purpose pursued by the service and the force used and the intensity of its use were not manifestly disproportionate to the danger of the attack.
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 61 of the Act No. 171/1993 governs police use of firearms and knives. Paragraph 1 authorises police use of such weapons inter alia in necessary defence and extreme distress; and to prevent the escape of a dangerous perpetrator who cannot otherwise be detained. 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 2016 Concluding Observations on Slovakia, the Human Rights Committee did not address the right of peaceful assembly. The 2019 Universal Periodic Review of Slovakia under the UN Human Rights Council also did not address the right of peaceful assembly.
The European Court of Human Rights has not found a violation by Slovakia of the right of peaceful assembly.
Views of Civil Society
According to Freedom House's 2019 report on Slovakia:
Freedom of assembly is constitutionally guaranteed and upheld by state authorities, and peaceful demonstrations are common. A series of demonstrations sparked by the murder of Ján Kuciak and led to the eventual resignation of Prime Minister Fico. However, in November, the police interrogated protest organizers, citing an anonymous and highly dubious accusation that they had been plotting a coup. The investigation was later shelved, but critics accused the police of attempting to intimidate civic activists. Several international organizations protested the actions of the police.
According to CIVICUS:
Concerns have been raised that the burden on protest organisers to ensure stewards are available is designed to absolve the state of its duty to properly police public gatherings. Labour unions are allowed to assemble and picket without hindrance and this year teachers held peaceful nationwide strikes. In recent times, a rising anti-immmigrant sentiment amongst some sections of society has caused tensions on the streets of Slovakia, with protestors and counter-demonstrators separated by police. In 2015, large scale anti-immigrant rallies by right-wing parties took place and police had to intervene to prevent attacks on smaller pro-migrant gatherings; some arrests were carried out. A series of large political opposition protests took place in 2016 without major incident.