France: The harassment of Cédric Herrou, defender of migrants’ rights, must end

Press release
en fr

Paris-Geneva, August 29, 2017. The Observatory for the Protection of Human Rights Defenders (an FIDH-OMCT partnership) and the Ligue des droits de l’Homme (LDH) condemns the police and judicial harassment in France against Mr. Cédric Herrou, as denounced by the Observatory in an Urgent Appeal published on August 28, 2017. This harassment reflects a policy from the French Government to hinder the work of defenders of migrants’ rights and their organisations.

Mr. Cédric Herrou is victim of harassment for defending migrants in the Roya valley, in Alpes Maritimes, where a huge police operation involving several hundred officers is taking place, with the aim of deterring the passage and presence of migrants in the region.

On August 8, 2017, the Aix-en-Provence Court of Appeal sentenced Mr. Cédric Herrou to a four-month suspended sentence and ordered him to pay €1,000 in damages, with interest, to the National Society of Railways (Société Nationale des Chemins de Fer - SNCF). This sentence was handed down while other criminal proceedings were ongoing, following Mr. Herrou’s investigation by the Grasse Prosecutor’s Office for simply travelling on a train from Nice to Cannes in order to film the arrest of migrants, if any. Mr. Herrou is now under judicial supervision and banned from leaving France, as well as from train stations and station forecourts in Alpes Maritimes. He is also compelled to appear at the police station in Breil sur Roya once a fortnight. He faces up to five years in prison and €30,000 in fines.

Furthermore, several police officers and gendarmes have been posted in the mountains around the home of Mr. Herrou, and inspections are regularly carried out on anyone who visits him. Acts of intimidation and insults by members of the police force targeting Mr. Herrou, his lawyer and volunteers working with him have also been reported. Moreover, Mr. Herrou has been receiving numerous threats and insults by mail and on social media.

Mr. Herrou is not the only militant being harassed in France for supporting migrants and refugees. In Calais, Paris and many other regions in France, an increasing number of migrants’ rights defenders are complaining of a surge in cases of being summoned to police stations, remanded in custody and prosecuted for "aiding an unauthorised resident" or other offences.

The Observatory and the LDH call upon the national and regional authorities and the relevant bodies of the United Nations, the Council of Europe and the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe to take action in order to put an end to all forms of harassment, including at the judicial level, against Mr. Cédric Herrou, as well as against all defenders of human rights, and particularly the rights of migrants and refugees in France. More generally, the Observatory and the LDH call upon the French authorities to comply with the provisions of the Declaration on Human Rights Defenders, adopted by the United Nations General Assembly on December 9, 1998, in particular with its Articles 1 and 12.2; as well as with the provisions of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and the regional and international human rights instruments ratified by France.

For more information, please contact:
· FIDH: Samuel Hanryon: +33 6 72 28 42 94
· OMCT: Delphine Reculeau: +41 22 809 49 39
· LDH: Clotilde Julien: +33 1 56 55 51 15

The Observatory was created in 1997 by FIDH and the World Organisation Against Torture (OMCT). The objective of this programme is to prevent or remedy situations of repression against human rights defenders FIDH and OMCT are both members of, the European Union Human Rights Defenders Mechanism implemented by international civil society.

Founded in 1898 during the Dreyfus Affair, the Ligue des Droits de l’Homme (LDH) has as its mandate the defence of any person or group of people that fall victim to injustice or the infringement of their rights. A secular, comprehensive and political - but non-partisan - organisation, it seeks to fight against the infringements of individual rights in all areas of civic, political and social life. It also aims to promote the political and social citizenship of all and to guarantee that democracy is exercised to its full extent. This is what its 9,500 members, in over 300 divisions around France, continue to work towards.

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