Philippe Lamberts: French police force is possible ‘violation of law’

Written by Martin Banks on 15 February 2019 in News
News

The alleged use of force by French police against protesters has been labelled a possible “violation of law” by Greens co-leader Philippe Lamberts.

Photo Credit: Press Association


Speaking in Strasbourg, the Belgian deputy said he had spoken to some of the so-called “yellow vest” protesters who have recently taken to the streets of France to protest against the Macron government.

His comments come as Parliament on Thursday condemned the “excessive force and violence” used by police forces on peaceful protesters across Europe in recent months, which have left several dead and thousands injured, many with life-changing injuries.

MEPs adopted a resolution in Strasbourg which condemns the use of such force. Members had demanded action after unrest in Romania, Spain, Hungary, Greece as well as the months-long ‘gilets jaunes’ protests across France.


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However, separate demands by the left-wing GUE group on banning the use of less lethal weapons by police forces failed as the majority of political groups voted against.

Addressing a news briefing just ahead of the vote, Lamberts, a Flemish MEP, said, “I have spoken to some of the protesters after they contacted me because they felt so outraged at the use of force being used against them by the police in France.”

“Imagine if such force had been used by police in Warsaw or Budapest? I can hear the calls now of ‘anti-democratic slippage’ but, hey, this is France, so no one says anything.”

“In a democracy, the state cannot deploy the use of force indiscriminately but only out of necessity. If force is used it has to be proportionate.”

“In a democracy, the state cannot deploy the use of force indiscriminately, but only out of necessity. If force is used it has to be proportionate” Philippe Lamberts MEP

“This means that the use of force must be proportionate to the public disorder it is attempting to tackle.”

“It appears that the use of force by the police in France and also in Spain [against protestors in Catalonia] may not have been proportionate and could amount to a violation of the use of law.”

RIGHT TO PEACEFUL PROTEST

Speaking separately in the plenary on Thursday, UK Labour MEP Alex Mayer also spoke out about the importance of and right to peaceful protest, calling it “a cherished right.”

In a debate on the issue this week, Parliament heard the situation has been particularly serious in France, where the Compagnies Républicaines de Sécurité (CRS) are accused of repeatedly deploying sub-lethal weapons against the ‘gilets jaunes’, resulting in more than 2,000 injured, one dead and 20 people blinded.

Amongst the life-threatening weapons used by the security forces include LBD 40, GLI F4 grenades and sting-ball grenades.

Commenting on the outcome of Thursday’s vote, GUE MEP Marie-Christine Vergiat said, “I welcome the fact that the European Parliament has voted to condemn the use of violent and disproportionate interventions by the public authorities during peaceful protests and demonstrations.”

“First and foremost, this is a condemnation of France, but as we have seen - as was the case with Catalonia during the referendum - police brutality occurs elsewhere, too.”

“I am pleased that the Parliament chooses to uphold our fundamental rights after more than 2,000 have been injured, 1 dead, 20 blinded in one eye and 5 people having their hands ripped off since the start of the ‘gilets jaunes’ in November” Marie-Christine Vergiat MEP

“I am pleased that the Parliament chooses to uphold our fundamental rights after more than 2000 have been injured, 1 dead, 20 blinded in one eye and 5 people having their hands ripped off since the start of the ‘gilets jaunes’ in November.”

“The resolution rightly recalls the main principles that must prevail in the realms of our fundamental rights - and that includes the right to protest. Meanwhile, maintaining order must also fall within this framework which includes proportionality,” she added.

About the author

Martin Banks is a senior reporter at The Parliament Magazine

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