THE Council of Europe Commissioner for Human Rights, Dunia Mijatovicexpressed today its concern about the “excessive use of force” towards the protesters protesting the pension reform and called the France to respect their right to protest.

“There were violent incidents, including some aimed at the forces of order” the Commissioner said in her announcement. “But sporadic violent actions by some protesters or other reprehensible acts by other people during a demonstration cannot be used to justify the excessive use of force by state actors. Nor are these acts sufficient to deprive peaceful protesters of their right to assembly.” he added.

“It is up to the authorities to allow the effective exercise of these freedoms, protecting peaceful demonstrators and journalists covering these demonstrations from police violence and from violent individuals operating within or on the fringes of the gatherings,” Mijatovic continued.

In recent days, bar associations, judges’ associations and left-wing politicians have denounced police brutality at protests against pension reform. Reporters Without Borders (RSF) today invited Interior Minister Géral Darmanen “to end police violence against journalists”.

Mijatovic also expressed concern over the arrest and detention of some protesters and people close to the protests, questioning “the necessity and proportionality of the measures”. Responding to Darmanen’s statements, he commented that “the failure to announce a demonstration is not in itself sufficient to justify the violation of the right to freedom of peaceful assembly, nor the criminal sanctions imposed on the participants.”

The French minister had said on Tuesday that taking part in an unannounced demonstration was an “offence” for which participants could be arrested.

Darmanen stated today that 11 judicial investigations are being launched for incidents of police violence in the last week, in the context of the protests.