Kanaky New Caledonia: Amnesty calls on France to ‘uphold rights’ of indigenous people

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A French policeman on guard in a Nouméa street
A French policeman on guard in a Nouméa street after this week's rioting by pro-independence protesters. Image: Amnesty International

Asia Pacific Report

The global human rights watchdog Amnesty International has called on France to not “misuse” a crackdown in the ongoing unrest in the non-self-governing French Pacific territory of Kanaky New Caledonia in the wake of a controversial vote by the French Parliament to adopt a bill changing the territory’s voting rules.

“The state of emergency declared by the French government and the deployment of the French army, coupled with a ban on the social media app TikTok, must not be misused to restrict people’s human rights,” Amnesty Pacific researcher Kate Schuetze said.

“The deeply worrying violence and the French authorities’ response must be understood through the lens of a stalled decolonisation process, racial inequality and the longstanding, peacefully expressed demands by the Indigenous Kanak people for self-determination.”

Schuetze said it was a challenging situation for police — “sadly including several fatalities”.

She said it was imperative that French police and gendarmes only used force as “reasonably necessary and prioritise protecting the right to life”.

Banning the TikTok app seemed a “clearly disproportionate measure” that would likely constitute a violation of the right to freedom of expression.

“It may also set a dangerous precedent that could easily serve as a convenient example for France and other governments worldwide to justify shutdowns in reaction to public protests,” she said.

“French authorities must uphold the rights of the Indigenous Kanak people and the right to peaceful expression and assembly without discrimination.

“People calling for independence should be able to express their views peacefully.”

In a 2023 resolution, following a report by the UN Special Political and Decolonization Committee, the UN General Assembly reiterated calls on “the administering power and all relevant stakeholders in New Caledonia to ensure the peaceful, fair, just and transparent conduct of the next steps of the self-determination process, in accordance with the Nouméa Accord.”

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