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PACE takes stock of the honouring of membership obligations to the Council of Europe by France

Yasko and O'Loughlin

The Assembly today took stock of the honouring of membership obligations to the Council of Europe by France.

Recalling France’s longstanding democratic tradition and its commitment to respect for human rights, the Assembly said it was following “with interest” the experiments with participatory democracy being conducted and their link with the mechanisms of representative democracy.

It recalled the interim opinion issued by the Venice Commission on Article 49.3 of the Constitution, according to which this constitutional provision allowed “significant interference by the executive in the powers and role of the legislature”. The Assembly, which “will be interested to see the Venice Commission’s final opinion”, invited the French government and political forces in France to take these considerations into account in the forthcoming institutional debates.

The resolution adopted, based on a report by Yelysaveta Yasko (Ukraine, EPP/CD) and Fiona O'Loughlin (Ireland, ALDE), also refers to recent public demonstrations, which “have sometimes been marred by outbreaks of violence, that in some cases reached worrying levels”. The adopted text regrets that the official statistics do not provide a clear picture of the number of people injured or killed by law enforcement officers during demonstrations, or the number of such officers sanctioned or having received criminal convictions for unlawful acts of violence committed during the demonstrations. “Having such statistics would help dispel the feeling that unlawful violence by law enforcement officers goes unpunished,” the text states.

The Assembly therefore called on the authorities to grant access to this information, and to improve the criminal law treatment of cases of unlawful violence committed by law enforcement officers, while considering that further thought should be given to law enforcement techniques “in particular by drawing on experience in other European countries”.

The parliamentarians congratulated France on the inclusive and transparent process followed in discussing and analysing the legal system, which led to an initial series of proposed legislative and institutional reforms being debated in parliament. In particular, they welcomed the announcement of an unprecedented increase in the financial and human resources allocated to the judicial system, and encouraged the government to move ahead with the reform process under way by tabling the constitutional bill necessary for completing the reforms of the judicial system.

Referring to “systemic prison overcrowding”, the Assembly welcomed the many measures decided by the authorities, in particular the announcements concerning the building of additional prison capacity, the efforts to improve the distribution of inmates between prisons and the efforts to raise judges’ and prosecutors’ awareness of possible alternatives to imprisonment. It recalled the Committee of Ministers' decision of 6 December 2022 which, in view of the consistent recommendations of several competent national institutions and the urgency of the situation, again invited the authorities rapidly to consider new legislative measures that would regulate the prison population in a more binding manner.

The Assembly welcomed the planned reform of civil procedure to improve the protection of journalists against vexatious proceedings. It encouraged the French authorities to adjust the regulatory environment to the sweeping changes in the media sector so as to improve the transparency of media ownership and guarantee internal and external media pluralism.

In 2019, France was selected by the Monitoring Committee for a periodic review report. The committee is responsible for periodically preparing monitoring reports on compliance with the obligations of all member States which are not subject to specific monitoring procedures. Its reports are then discussed by the Parliamentary Assembly.