The United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights Michelle Bachelet on Wednesday called for the withdrawal of a draft law in France known as "Article 24" that would curb the freedom to share images identifying police officers.
France has been hit by a wave of street protests after the government introduced a security bill in parliament that set out to increase its surveillance tools and restrict rights on circulating images of police officers in the media and online. The article has also drawn criticism from human rights groups and activists who say that civil liberties and the freedom of the press could ultimately be compromised.
In practice, this law would restrict the publication of photos or videos taken of police officers' faces while carrying out their duties in public spaces, and in many cases, an officer's face would have to be blurred. Other proposed measures include allowing the police to use drones equipped with cameras as well as easier access to CCTV footage.
In late November, the French government dropped a controversial bill with French President Emmanuel Macron's ruling party La Republique En Marche (LREM) saying the law will be "completely rewritten and a new version will be submitted," as reported by Reuters.
However, Bachelet urged Wednesday that the move would only trigger more demonstrations in the country and insisted that the bill should be revoked.
"The law has to be discussed by the French people," Bachelet told a Geneva news conference. "But it's Article 24, the one we are really concerned about. And that's why we are mentioning that should be reviewed and should be, I guess, withdrawn."
The French government has been under growing pressure to address long-running accusations of excessive violence by police, particularly against minorities. Some Black Lives Matter protests broke out in Paris in June, a month following the death of George Floyd after a white police officer knelt on his neck in a street in the U.S. city of Minneapolis for nearly nine minutes in the course of arresting him.
The outrage generated by Floyd's death has resonated in France, in particular in deprived city suburbs where police often clash with youth from ethnic minority backgrounds. The protests in Paris in June were directed at the unsolved cases of people dying at the hands of police, such as Adama Traore, who died in police detention near Paris in 2016.
Young people in French working-class suburbs with a large immigrant population have long complained of police violence, with an upsurge in complaints during the first coronavirus lockdown earlier this year. Racist comments allegedly made by police officers in a Facebook group also sparked outrage.
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