France: Conviction of man who shouted slogan at protest must be overturned

Ahead of the appeal hearing of Frédéric Vuillaume, a trade unionist, convicted for “contempt of public officials” after shouting a slogan during a protest in 2019, Marco Perolini, Amnesty International’s France researcher, said: 

“This case not only highlights the absurdity of the vaguely defined ‘contempt of public officials’ law but is also emblematic of the harassment that peaceful protesters face in France.”

This case not only highlights the absurdity of the vaguely defined ‘contempt of public officials’ law but is also emblematic of the harassment that peaceful protesters face in France
Marco Perolini, Amnesty International

“Frédéric Vuillaume did nothing wrong and his conviction should be overturned. As people are starting to protest again in France after months of lockdown, steps should also be taken to decriminalize ‘contempt’ as it is currently used by authorities to target peaceful protest and to silence dissent.”

“In the first nine months of 2019 alone, a staggering 14,598 people, including peaceful protesters, were convicted of the crime of ‘contempt’.”

BACKGROUND

On 13 March 2019, Frédéric, his wife and other protesters were detained during a protest against the visit to Besançon, eastern France, of Christophe Castaner, the Minister of the Interior, and held for 24 hours in pre-charge detention.

They were subsequently prosecuted for chanting the slogan “Castaner murderer”, an expression of their concerns about the hundreds of allegations of excessive use of force by police in the context of the Yellow Vest protests. On 29 April, they were convicted and sentenced to a suspended fine of €1,500. Like thousands of other protesters, Frédéric was arrested several times in the last two years due to his peaceful participation in the protests.