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African Human Rights Law Journal

On-line version ISSN 1996-2096
Print version ISSN 1609-073X


ORAO, Beryl. Protecting the right to life during assemblies: Legal and jurisprudential developments in the African human rights system. Afr. hum. rights law j. [online]. 2021, vol.21, n.2, pp.728-750. ISSN 1996-2096.

The right of peaceful assembly has been recognised as a critical component of democracy. In Africa it played a significant role in the liberation of states from colonial oppression, and continues to be used to express dissent. The actual exercise of this right, however, faces significant challenges. Too often, police officers use excessive or indiscriminate force during assemblies, leading to violations not only of the right of peaceful assembly but also, in some cases, of the right to life. Alive to the reality of the threat to life and limb posed by the unlawful use of force by the police during assemblies, over the past decades the African human rights system has developed standards for the use of force during assemblies. This article analyses the legal and jurisprudential developments around the protection of the right to life during assemblies and enquires as to whether they are consistent with international standards and whether they are adequate. It finds that despite progressive legal development on the protection of the right to life in law enforcement, in general, there is limited jurisprudence on the specific protection of the right to life in the context of the policing of assemblies. Consequently, the standards expressed in various instruments and resolutions are yet to be adequately interpreted and reinforced.

Keywords : African Charter; African Commission; right to life; right of peaceful assembly; use of force.

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