Dominica: Overview of civic space situation
Freedom of association is protected by the constitution, which states:
“Except with his own consent, a person shall not be hindered in the enjoyment of his freedom of assembly and association, that is to say, his right to assemble freely and associate with other persons and in particular to form or belong to trade unions or other associations for the protection of his interests.”
Dominica’s constitution protects the right to freedom of peaceful assembly. While this right is generally upheld, protest disruptions and clashes between demonstrators and police sometimes occur.
In November 2019, in the lead up to December general elections, there were violent clashes between the police and a group of approximately 200 protesters calling for electoral reform. According to Freedom House, police fired rubber bullets and tear gas at the protesters, who had tried to march on the presidential residence.
In March 2022, Dominica police warned against a protest announced by opposition group We the People against alleged power abuses in government. Roseau’s Police Commissioner stated on a radio programme that permission for any protest must be sought from the Chief of Police, which had not taken place in this case. Three political parties, including the main opposition United Workers Party (UWP), expressed “grave concern” over the intimidatory statements.
Dominica: 'We The People' concerned by statements made by police chiefhttps://t.co/8AMRGJCFZo— Loop News Caribbean (@loopnewscarib) March 31, 2022
Freedom of expression is constitutionally guaranteed. However, defamation remains a criminal offence under the ‘Libel and Slander Act’, with penalties of up to a year of imprisonment and fines. The ‘Seditious and Undesirable Publications Act’ also criminalises certain acts of libel against the State. As reported by Freedom House, defamation lawsuits and threats of lawsuits are commonly used as an intimidation tool against the media.
The country also lacks legislation to guarantee access to information.