The International Human Rights Framework on the Right of Peaceful Assembly

The Solomon Islands 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.

There is not yet a regional human rights treaty to which Pacific nations can adhere despite discussions going back decades as to the possibility of establishing a regional mechanism.

The Domestic Legal Framework on the Right of Peaceful Assembly

Constitutional Provisions

Under the 1978 Constitution of the Solomon Islands (as amended), every person in Solomon Islands is entitled to the freedom of assembly subject to limitations designed to ensure that the enjoyment of the freedom by any individual does not prejudice the rights and freedoms of others or the public interest.

National Legislation

The primary legislation governing assemblies in the Solomon Islands is the 1956 Processions and Public Assemblies Act (as amended). Under the law, authorisation must be secured for a public assembly. A request must be submitted at least 48 hours in advance.

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.

National Legislation

Under the regulations annexed to the 1956 Processions and Public Assemblies Act (as amended):

Any Provincial Secretary or police officer not below the rank of Inspector who has reasonable cause to believe that any procession or public assembly held in any place to which the public has access other than a building is a danger to public peace and tranquillity or is an obstruction may order such procession or public assembly to disperse.

Use of force by the Royal Solomon Islands Police Force is governed by the 2013 Police Act. Section 4 stipulates that the Act is based on a number of principles, including "preserving the human rights of individuals". Under Section 54, a police officer may take steps that he or she believes, on reasonable grounds, are necessary to suppress a riot. Section 68(1) provides that a police officer may use "reasonable and proportionate force" in the exercise of his or her duties.

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. 

National Legislation

Section 68(2) of the the 2013 Police Act stipulates that potentially lethal force or force which is likely to cause grievous bodily harm may only be used where necessary to prevent death or serious injury.

State Compliance with its Legal Obligations

Views and Concluding Observations of United Nations Treaty Bodies

The Solomon Islands is not a state party to the ICCPR.

In the 2015 Universal Periodic Review of the Solomon Islands under the UN Human Rights Council, the right of peaceful assembly was not addressed.

Views of Civil Society

According to Freedom House's 2019 report on the Solomon Islands:

The constitution guarantees freedom of assembly, and the government generally upholds this right. However, peaceful demonstrations can give way to civil unrest, particularly during contentious parliamentary debates, elections, or large-scale labor actions. Some smaller protests proceeded without incident during 2018.

Downloads

1978 Constitution of the Solomon Islands (as amended) - Download (210 KB)
1956 Processions and Public Assemblies Act (as amended) - Download (139 KB)
2013 Police Act - Download (3 MB)