Europe sees rise in repressive measures against peaceful protests

The report documents excessive force, arbitrary arrests, and invasive surveillance tactics against protesters.

Anadolu Agency July 11, 2024
Anadolu Agency

The right to peaceful assembly in Europe is facing severe and systematic challenges as governments increasingly "stigmatize, criminalize, and crack down" on protesters, according to a new report by Amnesty International on Wednesday.

The report highlights a disturbing pattern of repressive laws, excessive use of force, arbitrary arrests, and invasive surveillance tactics across the continent.

"Amnesty’s research paints a deeply disturbing picture of a Europe-wide onslaught against the right to protest," said Agnes Callamard, Amnesty International’s secretary-general.

"Across the continent, authorities are vilifying, impeding, deterring, and unlawfully punishing people who peacefully protest," he added.

The report documents a range of abusive practices in 21 European countries, including Belgium, Finland, France, Germany, Italy, Poland, Slovenia, Serbia, and Switzerland.

These practices include the use of less-lethal weapons by police, resulting in serious injuries such as broken bones, dislocated limbs, and severe head trauma.

In France, incidents have led to the loss of hands, while in Spain, one protester lost a testicle due to police action, it said.

Moreover, the report highlights the use of excessive force against children in several countries, amounting to torture or other ill-treatment in some cases.

This use of force is often accompanied by stigmatizing rhetoric from authorities, who label protesters as "terrorists," "criminals," "foreign agents," "anarchists," and "extremists."

"Throughout history, peaceful protest has played a pivotal role in the achievement of many of the rights and freedoms that we now take for granted," Callamard continued.

"And yet across Europe, repressive laws and policies combined with unjustified practices and abusive surveillance technologies are creating a toxic environment which poses a serious threat to peaceful protesters and protests," he said.

The report also points to a troubling trend of framing peaceful civil disobedience as a threat to public order and national security.


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