Facing trial for protesting peacefully
Frédéric Vuillaume is a long-standing trade unionist and has been part of the Yellow Vests movement since its beginning. His activism and peaceful participation in protests has been marked by multiple pre-charge detentions, arrests, prosecutions and fines.
On 5 December 2020 he took part in a protest in Dijon against the global security bill, a controversial legislation that if passed, would establish mass surveillance, including via drones, and seriously violate rights to privacy, freedom of expression and peaceful assembly. He was leaving the protest and asking the police for directions when he was arrested and taken into pre-charge detention, where he was kept for 44 hours. He was subsequently charged with article 431-4 of the Criminal Code, ‘attroupement’ (participation in a public assembly that threatens public order) and faces a possible jail sentence of up to 1 year and a fine of EUR15,000. His trial is expected to start on 20 May 2021.
Frédéric Vuillaume’s case is illustrative of the harassment that thousands of peaceful protesters faced and continue to experience systematically due to provisions in the French law that criminalize conduct protected under international human rights law and standards. These include, amongst others, provisions that impose a punishment solely for the exercise of the right to peaceful assembly and impose criminal liability for noncompliance with notification requirements for organising a protest, contempt of public officials and participation in a public assembly that is likely to disrupt public order.
On 29 September 2020, Amnesty launched the report ‘Arrested for protest. Weaponizing the law to crackdown on peaceful protesters in France’ (available here: https://www.amnesty.org/en/documents/eur21/1791/2020/en/) that shed light on the problematic response deployed by the French authorities to rising social movements. The report showed how French authorities have weaponized criminal law and resorted to overly broad laws to arrest and prosecute hundreds of protesters who did not commit violent acts.
The launch of the report was accompanied by the start of the #EyesOnFrance international campaign and the international petition targeting President Emanuel Macron (see here: https://www.amnesty.org/en/get-involved/take-action/france-right-to-pro…). As part of the #EyesOnFrance campaign activists from around the world are urging President Emanuel Macron to adhere to his commitment to uphold right to peaceful assembly, end the use of criminal law to crackdown on peaceful protesters in France and allow people to peacefully protest without fear of fines, arrests and prosecutions and harassment.