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4. Restrictions imposed on assemblies must comply with a three-prong test

The right to freedom of peaceful assembly is not absolute, and restrictions may be imposed. The main international treaties guaranteeing the right set out a similar strict test for restrictions (see Article 21 of the ICCPR, Article 11 of the ACHPR, Article 15 of the ACHR and Article 11(2) of the ECHR). Under this test, restrictions to freedom of peaceful assembly are only permissible when they: (1) are imposed in conformity with the law; (2) pursue a legitimate aim; and (3) are necessary in a democratic society, meaning that any restriction must comply with a strict test of necessity and proportionality.


  1. See, for example, Gafgaz Mammadov v. Azerbaijan, ECtHR, Judgment of 15 October 2015, para. 50; Gülcü v. Turkey, ECtHR, Judgment of 19 January 2016, para. 91.
  2. Gafgaz Mammadov v. Azerbaijan, ECtHR, Judgment of 15 October 2015, para. 50.
  3. Gafgaz Mammadov v. Azerbaijan, ECtHR, Judgment of 15 October 2015, para. 50.
  4. IACtHR, The Word “Laws” in Article 30 of the American Convention on Human Rights, Advisory Opinion OC-6/86, May 9, 1986, para. 38.
  5. IACHR, Second Report on the Situation of Human Rights Defenders in the Americas, OEA/Ser.L/V/II, Doc. 66, 31 December 2011, para. 165.
  6. IACtHR, The Word “Laws” in Article 30 of the American Convention on Human Rights, Advisory Opinion OC-6/86, May 9, 1986, para. 36.
  7. Tanganyika Law Society and the Legal and Human Rights Centre v. Tanzania, African Court of Human and Peoples’ Rights, Judgment of 14 June 2014, para. 107.1.
  8. See Gülcü v. Turkey, ECtHR, Judgment of 19 January 2016, para. 104, and references therein.
  9. Lashmankin and Others v. Russia, ECtHR, Judgment of 7 February 2017, para. 411.
  10. Human Rights Committee, General Comment 34: Article 19 (Freedoms of expression and opinion), UN Doc. CCPR/C/GC/34 (2011), para. 25.
  11. See, for example, Shmushkovych v. Ukraine, ECtHR, Judgment of 14 November 2013, para. 37; Rekvényi v. Hungary, ECtHR, Judgment of 20 May 1999, para. 34.
  12. Fontevecchia and D’Amico v. Argentina, IACtHR, Judgment of November 29, 2011, para. 90.
  13. AComHPR, Report of the Study Group on Freedom of Association and Assembly in Africa, 2014, p. 20, para. 5.
  14. Under to the AComHPR, restrictions may be enacted in the interest of “national security, the safety, health, ethics and rights and freedoms of others”; under the ACHR, “national security, public safety or public order, or to protect public health or morals or the rights or freedom of others”; and under the ECHR, “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.”
  15. Vladimir Sekerko v. Belarus, Human Rights Committee, Views of 28 October 2013, UN Doc. CCPR/C/109/D/1851/2008, para. 9.4.
  16. Human Rights Committee, General Comment 34: Article 19 (Freedoms of expression and opinion), UN Doc. CCPR/C/GC/34 (2011), para. 33.
  17. UN Human Rights Council, Joint report of the Special Rapporteur on the rights to freedom of peaceful assembly and of association and the Special Rapporteur on extrajudicial, summary or arbitrary executions on the proper management of assemblies, UN Doc. A/HRC/31/66, 4 February 2016, para. 49.
  18. Human Rights Committee, General Comment 34: Article 19 (Freedoms of expression and opinion), UN Doc. CCPR/C/GC/34 (2011), para. 33.
  19. See Young, James and Webster v United Kingdom, ECtHR, Judgement of 13 August1981, para. 63.
  20. Human Rights Council, Report of the Special Rapporteur on the rights to freedom of peaceful assembly and of association, UN Doc. A/HRC/32/36, 10 August 2016, para. 33.
  21. Human Rights Council, Report of the Special Rapporteur on the promotion and protection of the right to freedom of opinion and expression, Frank La Rue, UN Doc. A/HRC/23/40, 17 April 2013, para. 60.
  22. Alekseev v. Russian Federation, Human Rights Committee, Views of 25 October 2013, UN Doc. CCPR/C/109/D/1873/2009, para. 9.6: The State argued that the subject addressed by the demonstration would provoke negative reaction that could lead to violations of public order. The Committee found that “an unspecified and general risk of a violent counterdemonstration or the mere possibility that the authorities would be unable to prevent or neutralize such violence is not sufficient to ban a demonstration.” See also Mr. Jeong-Eun Lee v. Republic of Korea, Human Rights Committee, Views of 20 July 2005, UN Doc. CCPR/C/84/D/1119/2002, para. 7.3.
  23. Human Rights Committee, General Comment 34: Article 19 (Freedoms of expression and opinion), UN Doc. CCPR/C/GC/34 (2011), para. 33.
  24. Schumilin v. Belarus, Human Rights Committee, UN Doc. CCPR/C/105/D/1784/2008, Views of 23 July 2012 para. 9.4 (the Committee found the restriction violated the ICCPR because the state had not explained “how, in practice, in this particular case, the author’s actions affected the respect of the rights or reputations of others, or posed a threat to the protection of national security or of public order (ordre public), or of public health or morals”).
  25. Kim v. Republic of Korea, Human Rights Committee, CCPR/C/64/D/574/1994, Views of 4 January 1999, para. 12.5.
  26. Praded v. Belarus, Human Rights Committee, Views of 29 November 2014, UN Doc. CCPR/C/112/D/2029/2011, para. 7.5.
  27. Ricardo Canese v. Paraguay, IACtHR, Judgment of August 31, 2004, para. 96.
  28. Kasparov and Others v. Russia, ECtHR, Judgment of 3 October 2013, para. 86.
  29. Vasily Poliakov v. Belarus, Human Rights Committee, Views of 17 July 2014, UN Doc. CCPR/C/111/D/2030/2011, para. 8.3.