The International Human Rights Framework on the Right of Peaceful Assembly

Yemen 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.

Yemen is not 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, Yemen is a State Party to the 2004 Arab Charter of Human Rights. Under Article 24(6) of the Charter, every citizen has the right to freedom of peaceful assembly.

The Domestic Legal Framework on the Right of Peaceful Assembly

Constitutional Provisions

The 1991 Constitution of Yemen does not guarantee the right of peaceful assembly, although under Article 51 citizens have the right "to submit their complaints, criticisms, and suggestions to the various government bodies directly or indirectly".

National Legislation

The primary legislation on assemblies in Yemen is Law No. 29 of 2003 on the Organization of Marches and Assemblies. Article 3 of the Law stipulates that “every citizen in Yemen, every political party, every public organization, every trade union and syndicate has the right to freedom of peaceful assembly including peaceful demonstrations and marches in compliance with the constitution, the provisions of this law and the applicable laws.”

Article 4 of the Law requires organisers to notify the Ministry of Interior 72 hours before all demonstrations and marches. The Law does not specifically allow spontaneous assemblies but Article 19 provifdes that “The provisions of this law do not apply to protests and sit-ins that do not turn into a demonstration or a march.” This provision offers some space for spontaneous gatherings on a smaller scale.

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

There does not appear to be extant legislation on police use of force in Yemen.

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

There does not appear to be extant legislation on police use of force in Yemen.

State Compliance with its Legal Obligations

Views and Concluding Observations of United Nations Treaty Bodies

Yemen has not come before the Human Rights Committee in recent years.

Views of Civil Society

According to Freedom House's 2019 report on Yemen:

Yemenis have historically enjoyed some freedom of assembly, with periodic restrictions and sometimes deadly interventions by the government. Demonstrations against both the Hadi government and Houthi authorities occurred in 2018. In October, Houthi officials arrested dozens of people protesting over declining living standards and high commodity prices in Sanaa, and Houthi supporters reportedly attacked a number of demonstrators at the event.

According to CIVICUS:

Yemeni citizens, political parties, organisations and trade unions have a right to the freedom of peaceful assembly if they notify the authorities 72 hours in advance. Despite such a lengthy notification period being in contravention of international best practice, traditionally the people of Yemen have been able to exercise their right to peacefully assembly. However, this ability to protest has been largely wiped out. On 24 March 2015, Houthi rebels opened fired on a protest in South Yemen killing six people and wounding dozens. Protesters fear arrest, violence and retaliation for mobilising, drawing international condemnation over the dire situation for their rights. However, even in this repressive context some protests are allowed to take place. In March 2016, tens of thousands of Yemenis gathered in Sana’a to show their opposition to the Saudi-led bombing campaigns. 


Law No. 29 of 2003 on the Organization of Marches and Assemblies