UN urges French probe into use of force against ‘yellow vests’

Source:AFP Published: 2019/3/7 18:13:41

The UN rights chief on Wednesday called for a "full investigation" into the possible use of excessive force by French police during the often violent "yellow vest" protests. 

"The 'Gilets Jaunes' have been protesting what they see as exclusion from economic rights and participation in public affairs," Michelle Bachelet said in her annual address to the UN Human Rights Council in Geneva. 

"We encourage the government to continue dialogue - including follow-up to the national discussions which are currently under way - and urge the full investigation of all reported cases of excessive use of force," the former Chilean president said. 

The weekly "yellow vest" protests began in mid-November over a planned hike in fuel taxes. 

But they quickly grew into a broader anti-government revolt by people in ­rural and small-town France who have been angered by the policies of French President Emmanuel Macron.

Bachelet's comments won a frosty reception in Paris where Prime Minister Edouard Philippe said France "did not need [the UN] to shed light" on the violence which has marred the "yellow vest" protests.

"In France, we have the rule of law," he told BFMTV, suggesting it was necessary "to tell the High Commissioner about all the incidents of extreme violence," notably those against the security forces and public property.

French government spokesman Benjamin Griveaux also expressed surprise at Bachelet's criticism of France, noting that the IGPN, which investigates police abuses, had launched 162 investigations into the conduct of officers during the protests.

The UN rights chief said people worldwide had taken to the streets to protest inequalities and deteriorating economic and social conditions, saying their demands "call for respectful dialogue and genuine reform."

Since the demonstrations began on November 17, some 1,900 people have been hurt in the "yellow vest" demonstrations. 

Eleven people have died during the protests, all but one victims of traffic-related accidents.

The security forces' use of rubber bullets has also been a major source of controversy although French campaigners recently lost a legal bid to force police to stop using them.

The government has defended the use of rubber bullets and stun grenades as necessary following violence from some demonstrators who have repeatedly attacked the security forces.

Posted in: EUROPE

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