24 May 2019 – Ahead of the appeal against the conviction of Loan Torondel, a human rights defender found guilty of defamation after tweeting a photograph of policemen standing over one of the many people evicted from informal camps in Calais last year, Katia Roux, Advocacy Officer on Human Rights Defenders at Amnesty International France, said:
“Loan Torondel has done nothing wrong and his defamation conviction must be overturned. His prosecution exposes the way in which human rights defenders dedicated to providing aid to people seeking safety in Europe are harassed and targeted through the criminal justice system simply for acting with humanity and compassion.
“If the conviction is allowed to stand, it will set a dangerous precedent for anybody attempting to document police abuse in France
“If the conviction is allowed to stand, it will set a dangerous precedent for anybody attempting to document police abuse in France. It will also have a chilling effect on the work of people defending the rights of migrants and refugees and leave them in an even more precarious situation.
“Criminal defamation laws that inhibit legitimate criticism of public officials are contrary to the right to freedom of expression and must be repealed. The authorities must stop harassing human rights defenders through the courts.”
The trial will take place on 27 May, at 2pm in the Appeal’s Court of Douai.
Loan Torondel, was convicted for defamation after posting a photo of two police officers on Twitter. The tweet posted in January 2018 contained a photograph taken as he monitored the humanitarian situation of migrants and refugees as part of the Calais-based group L’Auberge des Migrants. The picture shows French police officers standing over a man who appears to be a migrant sitting on his sleeping bag. The caption suggests the officers are about to take away the man’s blanket despite the cold temperatures.
Amnesty International opposes laws criminalizing defamation, whether of public figures or private individuals, where cases should be treated as a matter for civil litigation.
Amnesty International is aware of numerous reports which suggest abusive behaviour by police forces against refugees and migrants and those who defend their rights in the Calais area.