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UN rights chief urges France to scrap part of draft security law

UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Michelle Bachelet gestures at a press conference in Geneva, on December 9, 2020. (Photo by AFP)

United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights Michelle Bachelet has voiced concern about a controversial French draft security law that would place restrictions on filming police, calling on France to withdraw it.

“The law has to be discussed by the French people,” Bachelet told a Geneva news conference on Wednesday. “But it’s the 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 And that’s why we are mentioning that should be reviewed and should be, I guess, withdrawn.”

Last month, the lower house of the French parliament passed legislation, known as the “Global Security Bill,” which sparked mass protests across France. Article 24 of the law would vaguely criminalize the publication of images of on-duty police officers with an “obvious intention to harm” them, making it an offense punishable by a year in prison and a 45,000-euro (54,000-dollar) fine.

The bill also increases the surveillance powers of the police, introducing high-tech measures such as drones and facial recognition cameras to monitor the people of the country.

The law has sparked protests in France. Rights groups and citizens say the bill in its current form would be used to target anyone who happens to record potential police misconduct.

French gendarmes stand guard as people attend a demonstration against a bill that would make it a crime to circulate an image of a police officer’s face in France, near the National Assembly in Paris, France, on November 24, 2020. (Photo by Reuters)

In a recent U-turn, French President Emmanuel Macron’s ruling party said it would rewrite Article 24.

On November 30, Macron held an emergency meeting with leaders of his parliamentary majority and Interior Minister Gerald Darmanin on the plan at the Elysee palace.

Officials said at the time that the new version of Article 24 would be submitted at a later date. But it was unclear when.

The legislation has already been sent to the Senate, where the conservatives, and not Macron’s party, have a majority.

The development comes amid public anger over footage showing three police officers beating and racially abusing a black man inside his own music studio.

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