Human Lives Human Rights: It is important for France to uphold and promote the right to peaceful protests. Numerous human rights groups have expressed concern over the reported excessive use of force during recent protests in France, such as those over pension reform and mega-basin projects. The use of force against civil society members who are demanding their rightful participation in decision-making processes concerning their future, natural resources, human rights, dignity, and equality goes against democratic values and undermines the rule of law. Human rights experts are calling on authorities to conduct a comprehensive review of their policing strategies and practices to enable peaceful protest and participation in public affairs. It is crucial that France fulfils its international obligations to facilitate and protect peaceful protests and promote freedom of association by investigating acts of violence during protests and bringing perpetrators to justice.
Protesters from various age groups and social movements have mobilized across different cities in France this year to denounce the Government’s proposed pension reform and water management policies in light of the climate emergency. It is worth noting that these protesters adopted peaceful methods, and the organizers’ demands were clearly stated ahead of gatherings. However, there are reports of police using tear gas and stun grenades to disperse crowds, which is ammunition unique to France in public order operations. The severity of reported acts of violence is alarming, with dozens of people injured, including protesters, journalists, elected officials, and passers-by. There were also arbitrary arrests across different cities.
The experts received worrying information on government officials using a rhetoric criminalizing human rights defenders, particularly environmental activists. A growing trend of stigmatization and criminalization of individuals and civil society organizations raising awareness about the consequences of climate change is concerning, as it can be used to justify the excessive, repeated, and intensified use of force against them.
The right to peaceful assembly is a fundamental right that forms the very basis of participatory governance systems founded on democracy, human rights, the rule of law, and pluralism. It is important for France to ensure that any policing strategy respects the principles of necessity and proportionality, with the sole aim of facilitating peaceful assemblies and protecting the fundamental rights of participants, including their right to life and physical and psychological integrity.