Amnesty says France’s ‘draconian’ laws undermine freedom to protest


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                Amnesty International a exprimé son inquiétude quant au fait que le droit de manifester en France est de plus en plus entravé par l'application de lois «draconiennes».  Dans un nouveau rapport, le groupe de défense des droits de l'homme affirme que des milliers de personnes ont été injustement ciblées sur des manifestations anti-gouvernementales en 2018 et 2019 - et que la situation s'était aggravée sous les restrictions de Covid-19.

                                    <p>"Des milliers de manifestants pacifiques ont été balayés par la répression draconienne des manifestations en France", a déclaré Amnesty International dans un rapport publié mardi.

It documents “how a blanket ban on protests following the Covid-19 lockdown was disproportionate and resulted in hundreds of unjustified fines.”

“He also finds that long before the pandemic, rescue workers, journalists and human rights monitors were among those targeted by vague laws during nationwide protests that began at the end of 2018. “

The legislative arsenal

More than 40,000 people were convicted in France in 2018 and 2019 “on the basis of overly broad laws” including “contempt for public officials”, “participation in a group with a view to committing acts of violence” and ” organization of an event without notification requirements. ”

“A legislative arsenal has been deployed to arbitrarily arrest and prosecute protesters and to unduly restrict their right to freedom of peaceful assembly,” the report said.

            <div id="em-WBMZ6009-RFI-EN-20200929" class="m-em-flash">
                    <blockquote class="twitter-tweet"><p lang="fr" dir="ltr">En France, des milliers de manifestants, notamment des Gilets Jaunes, ont été arrêtés, placés en garde à vue, poursuivis, voire condamnés alors qu’ils n’avaient pas commis de violences.  

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– Amnesty France (@amnestyfrance) September 29, 2020

<p>Depuis novembre 2018, la France a assisté à des manifestations antigouvernementales quasi hebdomadaires de manifestants dits «gilets jaunes» en colère contre les inégalités sociales perçues et la perte de pouvoir d'achat.

Some 11,200 yellow vests protesters were remanded in custody between November 2018 and July 2019.

France has also seen regular protests in late 2019 and early 2020 during the country’s longest consecutive public transport strike against pension reform proposals, and this year has seen further protests against racism. and alleged police brutality.

“Violence during protests is a legitimate concern, but there is a political will to make examples of people and dissuade others from taking to the streets,” Marco Perolini, a French researcher at Amnesty International, told AFP. .

While it has not defended the actions of protesters who commit violence or arson, the rights group said many peaceful people have been fined, arrested and prosecuted – some for simply bringing protective glasses or masks during a demonstration.

Disproportionate restrictions

The Amnesty report said the French authorities had “militarized the criminal law”, for example with “disproportionate restrictions on public meetings” as part of social distancing measures to stem the coronavirus epidemic.

He cited three cases in which 85 people were fined for participating in small protests in May and June this year, despite wearing face masks and / or maintaining a safe physical distance from others.

In April 2019, a general ban on covering the face during protests was introduced, punishable by fines of up to 15,000 euros and jail time of up to one year.

Between April and October 2019, 210 people were held in pre-trial detention under this ban. In 2019, 41 protesters were convicted of this offense.

“It is ironic that a country with such a long and proud tradition of collective action for social change criminalizes protest in this way,” concludes Marco Perolini.

“Three years after Emmanuel Macron made an electoral pledge to protect the right to peaceful assembly, a peaceful demonstration faces an unprecedented attack. “

Amnesty recommendations:

  • The ban on covering the face during demonstrations must be “urgently reviewed” as part of the role of masks in the fight against the spread of coronavirus cases.
  • This parliament is revising all laws that penalize the right to peaceful assembly.
  • The police should put an end to the abuse of the law on identity checks (article 78-3) which prevents the free movement of demonstrators.
  • Allow media organizations, journalists and human rights monitors unimpeded access to protests
  • For parliament to create an independent body to investigate complaints against police officers.

The justice ministry told AFP it would only comment after reading the full 63-page report.

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