Council of Europe urges 'calm' amid French protests

Wed 30 Jan 2019 12:57 GMT | 16:57 Local Time

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A top European human rights official on Wednesday expressed her concerns about the Yellow Vest protests which have rocked France since last November.

"The high level of tension currently prevailing in France is causing me concern and I consider it urgent to calm down the situation," said Dunja Mijatovic, Council of Europe commissioner for human rights, following her visit to Paris on Monday.

Mijatovic's trip aimed to discuss with French authorities the human rights aspects of the Yellow Vest protests.

Addressing the violence by security forces during the demonstrations -- including against journalists -- she conveyed her concern about the many people injured, some seriously, as well as police injuries.

She said a French bill proposing stricter punishments for activists should not lead to any restrictions on freedom of expression or peaceful assembly, as well as the right to liberty and security.

Mijatovic also stressed the need to respect human rights and fundamental freedoms while keeping the peace.

The Yellow Vest protests, which started as a reaction to fuel tax hikes and evolved into a protest against President Emmanuel Macron, have continued despite government calls for them to halt.

Since Nov. 17, thousands of protesters wearing bright yellow vests have gathered in major French cities, including Paris, to protest Macron's controversial fuel tax hikes and the country’s deteriorating economic situation.

Demonstrators held protests blocking roads as well as the entrances and exits to gas stations and factories across the country.

Under pressure, Macron announced a rise in the minimum wage and scuttled the tax hikes.

Since then, the protests have grown into a broader movement aimed at tackling income inequality and are calling for giving citizens a stronger voice in government decision-making.

At least 10 people have died in the protests, around 6,000 have been detained, and over 2,000 others have been injured.




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