French police abused protesters – human rights commission

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The French police have been chastised by the country’s national human rights commission for their handling of a recent wave of anti-government protests across the country.

According to a statement issued on Thursday by the French National Consultative Commission on Human Rights (CNCDH), peaceful protesters were herded into “traps” and arrested during rallies against President Emmanuel Macron’s decision to raise the national retirement age.

Only nine of the 292 protesters arrested on March 16 in Paris were prosecuted, according to the organization, indicating “an excessive use of police custody” to stifle legitimate protest.

Two journalists, who, according to the CNCDH, are not required to comply with police orders to disperse, were arrested at a protest the next day.

Furthermore, the organization stated that police used “trap” tactics to apprehend large groups of protesters, in violation of a 2020 police reform bill. These tactics, which can result in innocent protesters being detained by riot police for hours on end, are permitted by the European Court of Human Rights only when there is a “real risk of serious harm to persons or property.”

“Increased police repression cannot be the appropriate response to the government’s current political and social problems,” the CNCDH report stated. “France’s credibility on the international stage is at stake.”

On March 16, Macron’s government used executive privilege to pass a pension reform bill without a parliamentary vote. The bill, which raises France’s retirement age from 62 to 64, was already condemned by trade unions and opposition parties, and its passage sparked nationwide protests and riots.

More than a million people took to the streets on Thursday, with rioters hurling rocks and molotov cocktails at police officers in Paris. Police used tear gas and water cannons in response, and over 450 people were arrested across the country, the majority of whom were in the capital. Demonstrators set over 900 fires in the streets, injuring 441 police officers, said Interior Minister Gerald Darmanin on Friday morning.