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No monitoring of France after complaint of police harassment at ‘Manif pour tous’, PACE committee recommends

While there were “shortcomings” in the response of French police to the March 2014 “Manif pour tous” demonstration in Paris, these were “not of such an order” as to warrant special monitoring of France by the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe (PACE), its Monitoring Committee has recommended.

A group of 24 parliamentarians had requested the opening of the monitoring procedure, alleging that hundreds of people protesting against a new law on same-sex marriage were “brutalised, gassed, arbitrarily arrested and jailed”. They also complained that the “compulsory teaching of gender theory from the age of six” violated parents’ right to educate their children on moral matters.

In an opinion approved yesterday, based on a report by Stefan Schennach (Austria, SOC) and Valeriu Ghiletchi (Republic of Moldova, EPP/CD), the committee said there were “sufficient indications” that a number of police officers “acted in a manner that may have exceeded their authority or was disproportionate in relation to the situation on the ground”. But these shortcomings “were not of such an order, or of a structural and systemic nature, that would warrant the opening of a monitoring procedure in respect of France”.

The allegation that police custody was used as a political punishment was “unwarranted”, the committee said. It also dismissed as “unfounded” the claim that France was violating parents’ freedom of conscience.

However, the committee expressed its concern at “the widespread abuse of controls of identity papers as a means of crowd control during demonstrations” and called for a change in the law to prevent this.

The opinion will now be considered by the Assembly’s Bureau, which will decide either to follow it or to hold a plenary debate on the question.

The Assembly’s monitoring procedure involves regular visits and assessments of how far a state is upholding the Council of Europe’s human rights and democratic standards. Nine of the Organisation’s 47 member States are currently subject to such monitoring (1) and an additional four (2) are engaged in post-monitoring dialogue with the Assembly.

1. Albania, Armenia, Azerbaijan, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Georgia, the Republic of Moldova, the Russian Federation, Serbia and Ukraine.

2. Bulgaria, “the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia”, Montenegro and Turkey.