In their report, the international human rights and advocacy group has called on the French government to conduct an investigation into the use of “disproportionate” force by police during last Saturday’s yellow vest protests in Paris and elsewhere in France.
While police force was justified against violent protesters, “heavy handed” officers also inflicted head and neck wounds as well as burns and other injuries on peaceful protesters who posed no threat to the police or public, the human rights advocacy group has found.
HRW stressed that high school students and journalists were among the victims.
— BleuBlancRouge4369 (@BBR4369) December 8, 2018
The New York-based organisation blasted French police’s unnecessary use of rubber bullets, tear gas and in particular GLI-F4 tear gas grenades containing 25 grammes of explosives that have been banned elsewhere in the EU for the risks they pose to the public.
“French police have a tough job policing large crowds of gilets jaunes and protests outside suburban schools, but that doesn’t give them carte blanche to use chemical sprays, tear gas grenades, and rubber projectiles,” said Kartik Raj, Western Europe researcher at Human Rights Watch.
As of 11 December, 1,407 demonstrators and bystanders have been wounded in “yellow vest” protests, whilst six protesters have died.
The Human Rights Watch study, titled “France's Police Crowd Control Methods Maim People” is calling on the French government to review the use of instant tear gas grenades and rubber bullets.
1) As #France braces for another weekend of #GiletsJaunes protests, we call on the authorities to use restraint. We have already documented numerous instances of excessive use of force, including rubber bullets, sting-ball grenades, and tear gas against largely peaceful protests
— Mariya Parodi (@MariyaParodi) December 14, 2018
Representatives of other human rights groups such as Amnesty International are also calling for more peaceful policing on Saturday 15.
Human Rights Watch pointed out that the death of an 80-year-old woman from Marseille is currently under investigation as it was thought to be caused by exposure to police tear gas”.
“French authorities should investigate thoroughly all allegations of improper use of force and ‘nonlethal’ weapons, and review police crowd-control guidelines” Raj added.
“Heavy-handed policing that harms peaceful protesters isn’t just wrong – it can actually escalate tension and worsen public order.”
This article has been updated to remove the incorrect mention of “GLI-F4 sting balls”. In fact as HRW pointed out to us “GLI-F4 are instant tear gas grenades and not “sting balls” which are dispersal grenades used by French police.