By a bill registered on October 20, the deputies of the presidential majority intend to limit the right to disseminate the image of police officers and gendarmerie in the exercise of their functions in order to bring them “A protective framework for action”. This is to forget that, conversely, the right to film the police protects the population.
The question of the restriction of the right to capture and disseminate the image of the police forces is nagging in the “land of human rights”. Already in 2008, the Minister of the Interior sent his department directors a circular reminding them that “Police officers do not benefit from any particular protection in terms of image rights”.
This state of law results from the fact that, in this matter, freedom of information takes precedence over the right to respect for one’s image or for private life, except in the event of misuse by an attack on the dignity of the person or the secrecy of investigation.
The strict code of ethics applicable to internal security officers further strengthens this right to information, as the National Security Ethics Commission recalled in its opinion n ° 2005-29: “The fact of being photographed or filmed during their interventions can not constitute any embarrassment for police officers concerned with respect for ethical rules. “
Why this formal attack on a stable and balanced legal situation? The party in power seems motivated by political motives which will result in obstructing justice. Comprehensive security bill plans to punish broadcasting “For the purpose of harming his physical or mental integrity” the image of the face or any other element of identification of an official of the national police or of a soldier of the national gendarmerie acting within the framework of a police operation. However, criminal law is already full of instruments intended to repress attacks, or calls to harm, the physical or mental integrity of people, whatever the instrument. Why then plan a new offense? The explanation is to be sought elsewhere than in the law.
Emmanuel Macron’s five-year term is marked by the discontent of the street: an almost insurrectionary situation instilled by the yellow vests, harsh strikes and union demonstrations against pension reform, historic and international mobilization against racism. With each time, the center of attention, police violence, mutilations and deaths. The authorities have activated themselves to deny the existence of this violence: if the demonstrators lose an eye, it is because it is necessary to maintain public order, and if people die during a police operation. is that they were already suffering from health problems.
However, two recent events have created a breach in this denial: the placing of police violence on the international scene and the launch of the Urgence violence policières application. The first was born in the United States after the murder by asphyxiation of George Floyd by a police officer, whose impact here brought together more than 20,000 people, on June 2, in front of the Paris court, who came to denounce the police violence racist in France. The second aims to allow any person witnessing police violence to film and document them by hosting the images on an external server, in order to prevent a seizure of the telephone by the police officers or a restriction to the access to surveillance cameras present.
The application Urgence violence policières provoked the ire of the police unions, while the demonstration on the forecourt of the Paris judicial court put the ruling party in embarrassment. It was therefore necessary to find a solution, meet the expectations of civil society or meet the demands of the police. The present bill takes the second bet, and, without stopping to protect police and gendarmerie agents against malicious use of their image, in reality aims to make their violence invisible.
If police violence is no longer visible, it can no longer be proven during a trial, depriving victims and their families of their right to know the truth, and making the perpetrators escape all responsibility.
On March 5, 2015, Amadou Koumé died in the premises of the police station in the 10th arrondissement of Paris, as a result of the disproportionate use of force. Three police officers were indicted for “willful violence resulting in death without intention of giving it”, thanks to the videos of the scene.
On February 2, 2017, four police officers controlled a group of young people, including Théo Luhaka. The latter is immobilized and is penetrated by a telescopic baton. It is the video of the facts broadcast by the collective Urgence notre police assassine which will publicize the case.
On October 6, 2019, Ibrahima Bah died in a motorcycle accident in Villiers-le-Bel, where police vehicles were involved. His family is currently struggling to access the footage from the surveillance camera on the scene.
On January 3, 2020, Cédric Chouviat died of suffocation during a police check. His family obtained the opening of an investigation procedure thanks to a video recording.
It is because this police violence has been made visible that legal actions have been taken. Speaking to a parliamentary committee, on November 5, the Attorney General at the Court of Cassation, François Molins, recalled that it was the broadcast on social networks of the video of a punch struck by a police official on a high school student who had allowed the Paris prosecutor’s office to prosecute this agent.
In the absence of these images, the police and gendarmes involved in this violence would never have been worried. Even though officials are not above the law and in particular criminal laws. To deprive the population of the possibility of constituting evidence of criminal acts is to consolidate their authors in the most total irresponsibility.
And if so, who will protect us from the police?