The International Human Rights Framework on the Right of Peaceful Assembly
Slovenia 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.
Slovenia 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, Slovenia 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 42 of the 1991 Constitution of Slovenia provides in part that:
The right of peaceful assembly and public meeting shall be guaranteed. ...
Legal restrictions of these rights shall be permissible where so required for national security or public safety and for protection against the spread of infectious diseases.
The 2005 Act on Public Assembly is the primary legislation in Slovenia governing assemblies.
Under Article 13, a permit is necessary for assemblies where open fire is used or objects or devices which can jeopardise the lives or health of people or property; or assemblies where more than 3,000 participants are expected.
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.
Article 34 of the 2005 Act on Public Assembly provides as follows:
Participants in a gathering or event or unorganized gathering which has been dispersed, must leave peacefully.
If the participants do not leave, the police shall disperse them.
The 2013 Police Tasks and Powers Act governs use of force by the Slovenian Police. Article 13(1) stipulate that in carrying out their duties, "police officers shall respect and protect the right to life, human personality and dignity and other human rights and fundamental freedoms."
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.
Articles 96 and 97 governs the use of firearms. According to Article 96(1):
When performing official tasks, police officers may use firearms only if otherwise unable
- to prevent an unlawful assault directed concurrently against themselves or any other person that endangers lives, or
- to prevent a person who in circumstances indicating elements of the commission of a criminal offence has in his possession a firearm ready for use, explosives or other dangerous objects or substances for endangering the life of one or more persons.
Under paragraph 2, an assault on a police officer or any other person includes where a person reaches for a weapon or any other dangerous object or substance, pulls them out or tries to do so or holds them in a position indicating the possibility of an imminent assault.
These provisions are more permissive than international law allows.
Article 97(1) adds special conditions for the use of firearms that are relevant for assemblies, specifying that if "a person against whom police officers are allowed to use firearms is fleeing or retreating towards a group of people or is in the midst of them, a police officer may only shoot if the person in question is directly threatening people's lives".
State Compliance with its Legal Obligations
Views and Concluding Observations of United Nations Treaty Bodies
In its 2016 Concluding Observations on Slovenia, the Human Rights Committee did not address the right of peaceful assembly. The 2019 Universal Periodic Review of Slovenia 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 Slovenia of the right of peaceful assembly.
Views of Civil Society
According to Freedom House's 2019 report on Slovenia:
The rights to peaceful assembly and association are guaranteed by the constitution and respected in practice. Assemblies must be registered with the authorities in advance, and in some instances permits are required.
According to CIVICUS:
Protests, especially Friday anti-government protests, have been a regular feature of public life in Slovenia since [Prime Minister] Janša took office. Some citizens initiated cyclists’ protests to complain about the government’s handling of the coronavirus crisis. Protests have been staged every Friday thus far, with more than thirty held since March 2020, and have since spread across Slovenia. However, these protests have been subject to intense police scrutiny. Concerns were raised over the police handling of these protests in Ljubljana, will allegations of excessive use of police powers. A package of three media laws has also come under the spotlight, with journalists staging a protest calling for these laws to be scrapped. These laws threaten to completely change the Slovenian media landscape. Journalists also faced threats during the reporting period.