The International Human Rights Framework on the Right of Peaceful Assembly
Uruguay 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.
Uruguay 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, Uruguay is a State Party to the 1969 Inter-American Convention on Human Rights. Article 15 governs the right of assembly:
The right of peaceful assembly, without arms, is recognized. No restrictions may be placed on the exercise of this right other than those imposed in conformity with the law and necessary in a democratic society in the interest of national security, public safety or public order, or to protect public health or morals or the rights or freedom of others.
Uruguay has accepted the competence of the Inter-American Court of Human Rights to hear complaints by individuals under the jurisdiction of the State that their rights under the 1969 Inter-American Convention on Human Rights have been violated.
The Domestic Legal Framework on the Right of Peaceful Assembly
Article 38 of the 1966 Constitution of Uruguay (as amended) address the right of peaceful assembly:
The right of peaceful and unarmed public meetings is guaranteed. The exercise of this right may not be denied by any authority of the Republic except in accordance with law, and only insofar as such exercise may prejudice public health, safety or order.
The 2008 Law on Police Procedure gives the police the power to disperse a violent assembly.
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.
Law on the Police 18 315 of 2008 governs police use of force. Article 17 stipulates that the police "may only use legitimate force when strictly necessary and to the extent required by the performance of their duties". Article 18 sets out further principles governing the use of force:
The use of force, including different types of weapons, must be moderate, rational, progressive and proportional, considering the risk to face and the legitimate objective pursued.
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.
Article 22 limits the use of firearms to situations "when a person offers armed resistance to police action or endangers the physical integrity or life of the acting police or third parties and can not be reduced or stopped using non-lethal means". This does not fully comply with international law and standards.
State Compliance with its Legal Obligations
Views and Concluding Observations of United Nations Treaty Bodies
In its 2013 Concluding Observations on Uruguay, the Human Rights Committee did not address the right of peaceful assembly. The 2019 Universal Periodic Review of Uruguay under the Human Rights Council also did not address the right of peaceful assembly.
There has been no case involving the right of peaceful assembly in Uruguay in recent years.
Views of Civil Society
According to Freedom House's 2019 report on Uruguay:
Freedom of assembly is protected by law, and the government generally respects this right in practice. Protests are frequent. On several occasions in early 2018, farmers, accompanied by some workers from other sectors, staged antigovernment protests at which participants demanded government assistance for their industries, including cuts in fuel and electricity prices, and modifications to trade agreements and monetary policy.