The right to protest in France has been disproportionately curtailed during the recent “gilets jaunes” protests and the
authorities should rethink their law enforcement policies to guarantee the exercise of freedoms, say a group of UN human
“Since the start of the yellow vest protest movement in November 2018, we have received serious allegations of excessive
use of force. More than 1,700 people have been injured as a result of the protests across the country,” the experts
“The restrictions on rights have also resulted in a high number of arrests and detentions, searches and confiscations of
demonstrators' possessions, and serious injuries have been caused by a disproportionate use of so-called ‘non-lethal’
weapons like grenades and defensive bullets or ‘flashballs’,” they added.
"Ensuring public order and security in the context of crowd management or event management measures implies the need to
respect and protect protesters who peacefully participate in a demonstration to express themselves,” the experts
“We are aware that some demonstrations have become violent and have spilled over but we fear that the disproportionate
response to these excesses may deter the population from continuing to exercise its fundamental freedoms. It is very
disturbing to note that despite weeks of demonstrations, the restrictions and tactics of managing rallies and the use of
force have not improved.”
The experts also expressed deep concern about a proposed law claiming to prevent violence during demonstrations and to
punish the perpetrators, pointing out that some of the provisions of this law are not in line with the International
Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, to which France is a Party.
“The proposed administrative ban on demonstrations, the establishment of additional control measures and the imposition
of heavy sanctions constitute severe restrictions on the right to freedom of peaceful assembly. These provisions can be
applied arbitrarily and lead to extremely serious abuses,” the experts emphasized.
"We encourage France to rethink its law enforcement policies and encourage the French authorities to establish avenues
for dialogue to reduce tension and to recognize the important and legitimate role that social movements play in
governance,” the experts said.