An international human rights group on Monday slammed France’s “arbitrary” detention of people protesting the country’s controversial security bill.

Many protesters “were arrested for non-violent crimes that are vaguely defined in French law; these include the crime of contempt against public officials, and participating in a group with a view to preparing violent acts,” said Amnesty International in a statement.

“Protests organized on 12 December 2020 in several cities were attended by tens of thousands of protesters. On that day 142 people were arrested in Paris, 124 of whom were put in pre-charge detention. In nearly 80% of these cases, protesters were eventually not prosecuted,” the statement said.

It added that there are insufficient grounds to justify many of the arrests and pre-charge detentions.

“Amnesty International is calling on President Emmanuel Macron to ensure that all laws that violate the right to peaceful assembly are scrapped. People peacefully participating in protests ahead of the debate at the Senate on 3 March must be allowed to do so without the threat of arrest hanging over them,” the statement said.

Marco Perolini, Amnesty International’s Europe researcher, said: “Detaining people who are peacefully protesting against a law which would further trample over their rights is a move straight out of the ‘human rights violators’ playbook. These dangerous practices pose a grave threat to the rights of people in France.”

Approved by the country’s National Assembly last November and is likely to be examined by the Senate in March, the security bill criminalizes dissemination of videos and images of police on social media and allows mass surveillance through drones, CCTV and body-worn cameras.

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