6 Mar, 2019
UN human rights chief Michelle Bachelet has called for a full investigation into reports of excessive use of force by the French police against Yellow Vest protesters resulting in over 2,000 injured and dozens being maimed.
“We encourage the government to continue dialogue – including follow-up to the national discussions which are currently underway – and urge full investigation of all reported cases of excessive use of force,” the former Chilean President said in her annual address to the UN Human Rights council in Geneva. Her speech highlighted how the Yellow Vests’ demand for “respectful dialogue” has seemingly been met with over the top violence by the state.
Bachelet spoke highly of France’s weekly Yellow Vest protests which take place in cities across France, describing their struggle against “inequalities and deteriorating economic and social conditions” in Macron’s France and arguing that they intend to inspire “genuine reform.”
The French police force’s heavy handed response to the yellow clad demonstrators has been widely criticized, particularly after videos began to surface of participants having their limbs blown off and eyes gouged out. According to government figures, over 2,000 protesters and over 1,000 police officers were injured since November.
While the violence has hardly been one sided and a large number of police have also sustained injuries in the course of clashes with demonstrators, not a single police officer has actually been reprimanded for excessive force.
The majority of severe injuries among demonstrators have came from “non-lethal” crowd control weapons such as rubber-bullets, tear gas and stun grenades. Attempts by human rights activists and community leaders to roll back the use of these arms have been unsuccessful, leading some to accuse the government of complicity in the violence.
Paris responded swiftly, stating that investigations into issues of police violence at the rallies have already been launched, and that the French government has organized open discussions to facilitate public dialogue.
“We have always been extremely clear about it… Every time it was necessary, investigations were launched… It is surprising, however, to find us listed between Venezuela and Haiti, where there have been deaths,” government spokesman Benjamin Grievaux told reporters.