Temporary protest ban sparks calls for change to peaceful assembly regulation

Peaceful Assembly

A demonstration scheduled for 5th October was initially banned, but later authorised after organisers submitted a new application. The march by the National Union of Basic Education Workers (Syndicat National des Contractuels et Fonctionnaires de l’Education de Base) was banned through a decree issued on 30th September by the mayor of Niamey. The decision was communicated to the organisers only in the early afternoon of 4th October, when a new application was immediately submitted and the event was eventually allowed to proceed. The demonstration took place on 12th October but calls were subsequently made for changes to the way the law governing the freedom of peaceful assembly is implemented.

On paper, protest organisers currently only have to report that they are planning to assemble in public, and do not have to seek authorisation from the authorities. In practice however, the legally-established reporting mechanism has been transformed into one where the police can deny permission to protest on public order grounds. Authorities often rely on Article 5 of the 2004 law regulating protests, which allows the police to ban a public gathering if "the proposed event is likely to seriously disturb public order". The law also establishes circumstances in which the time and place of a gathering can be changed. The timeframes established in Article 6 of the same law are rarely adhered to.

Shortcomings in the 2004 law were noted during recent discussions between the government and civil society, and the Minister of Justice has asked civil society to submit proposals for the amendment of current regulations and practice.