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UN experts urge France to scrap its controversial security bill

A group of independent United Nations experts on Thursday urged France to revise its controversial proposed security law, branding it "incompatible" with international human rights legislation.

UN experts urge France to scrap its controversial security bill
The security bill has prompted huge protests in France. Photo: AFP

The five UN special rapporteurs, who do not speak for the global body but report their findings to the Human Rights Council, said the draft law “should be comprehensively revised”.

The bill's Article 22 would allow drone surveillance for security purposes, while Article 24 would criminalise publishing images of on-duty police with the intent of harming their “physical or psychological integrity”.

READ ALSO Drones and surveillance cameras: France's new security bill explained

 

The French government has come under increasing pressure to scrap or revise the bill as outrage has grown over a highly publicised case of police violence.

Four French police officers were charged this week after being caught on camera beating black music producer Michel Zecler and showering him with racial abuse.

Thousands meanwhile demonstrated against the proposals at the weekend, some rallies turning violent and leaving dozens injured.

Though the UN experts welcomed a planned rewrite of Article 24, they urged the French government to undertake a comprehensive evaluation of the entire bill's compatibility with international law.

“Images of police abuse captured by the public play a vital role in oversight of public institutions, which is fundamental to the rule of law,” said the special rapporteurs, including the UN's top experts on freedom of expression, freedom of assembly, and the protection of human rights while countering terrorism.

READ ALSO The new French law that restricts photos and videos of police

“Simply rewriting Article 24 will not solve its flaws, and the provision is certainly not the only one that infringes on fundamental human rights,” they added.

On Article 22, they said that permitting drone surveillance for security and counter-terrorism would allow “widespread surveillance, in particular of demonstrators”.

“This has serious implications for the right to privacy, freedom of peaceful assembly and freedom of expression,” they said.

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POLITICS

Rugby tickets, coffee and stickers – French presidential candidates chastised over expenses claims

From coffee runs to rugby tickets and professional photos - France's election financing body has revealed some of the items it has refused to reimburse from the 2022 presidential race.

Rugby tickets, coffee and stickers - French presidential candidates chastised over expenses claims

Spending on the election trail is tightly regulated in France, with maximum campaign spends per candidate as well as a list of acceptable expenses that can be reimbursed.

In France the State pays at least some of the election campaign costs, with the budget calculated according to how many votes the candidate ends up getting. 

READ MORE: 5 things to know about French election campaign financing

On Friday, the government body (la Commission nationale des comptes de campagne et des financements politiques – or CNCCFP) released its findings for the 12 candidates who ran in the April 2022 presidential campaign. 

All of the candidates had their accounts approved, but 11 out of the 12 were refused reimbursement on certain items. Here are some of the items that did not get CNCCFP approval;

Rugby tickets 

Jean Lassalle – the wildcard ‘pro farmer’ candidate who received about three percent of votes cast in the first round of the 2022 election – bought “19 tickets to attend a rugby match” according to the CNCCFP’s findings. The organisation said it would not be reimbursing the tickets and questioned “the electoral nature of the event”. 

The total cost of the tickets was €465 (or €24.50 each).

Too many coffees

Socialist candidate, and current mayor of Paris, Anne Hidalgo reportedly spent at least €1,600 on coffee for her team during the campaign.

According to the CNCCFP, however, the caffeine needed to keep a presidential campaign running did not qualify under the country’s strict campaign financing rules.

Too many stickers

Hard-left candidate Jean-Luc Mélenchon’s was told that the 1.2 million stickers that were bought – to the tune of €28,875 – to advertise the campaign would not be reimbursed. Mélenchon justified the purchasing of the stickers – saying that in the vast majority of cases they were used to build up visibility for campaign events, but CNCCFP ruled that “such a large number” was not justified. 

Mélenchon was not the only one to get in trouble for his signage. Extreme-right candidate Éric Zemmour was accused of having put up over 10,000 posters outside official places reserved for signage. The same went for the far-right’s Marine Le Pen, who decided to appeal the CNCCFP’s decision not to reimburse €300,000 spent on putting posters of her face with the phrase “M la France” on 12 campaign buses.

Poster pictures

Emmanuel Macron – who won re-election in 2022 – will not be reimbursed for the €30,000 spent on a professional photographer Soazig de la Moissonière, who works as his official photographer and took the picture for his campaign poster. 

The CNCCFP said that Macron’s team had “not sufficiently justified” the expenditure.

Expensive Airbnbs

Green party member Yannick Jadot reportedly spent €6,048 on Airbnbs in the city of Paris for some of his campaign employees – an expense that the CNCCFP said that public funds would not cover.

Translating posters

The campaign finance body also refused to reimburse the Mélenchon campaign’s decision to translate its programme into several foreign languages at a cost of €5,398.

The CNCCFP said that they did not consider the translations to be “an expense specifically intended to obtain votes” in a French election.

Best and worst in class

The extreme-right pundit Zemmour had the largest amount of money not reimbursed. Zemmour created a campaign video that used film clips and historic news footage without permission and also appeared on CNews without declaring his candidacy – because of these two offences, CNCCFP has reduced his reimbursement by €200,000. He has been hit with a separate bill of €70,000 after he was found guilty of copyright infringement over the campaign video. 

The star pupil was Nathalie Arthaud, high-school teacher and candidate for the far-left Lutte Ouvriere party, who apparently had “completely clean accounts”. A CNCCFP spokesperson told Le Parisien that if all candidate accounts were like Arthauds’, then “we would be unemployed”.

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