The French state was condemned by the administrative court of Nice for “attacking freedom of expression”, after having masked the window of a Nice bookstore and the feminist slogans which were displayed there during a visit by the minister of the Interior, Gérald Darmanin, in December 2022, the French media reported on Tuesday.
Last December, when the Minister came to visit the future police station in Nice, police covered the window of a local bookstore with a black sheet to conceal slogans such as “Victims we believe you. Rapists we see you” or “Who sows impunity reaps anger”.
A poster on the window also indicated “Sophie we believe you”, in reference to Sophie Patterson-Spatz, who has accused Gérald Darmanin of rape since 2017 and will appeal in cassation after the confirmation on appeal of the minister’s dismissal in January, add the media.
In a decision handed down on Monday and relayed by the press, the judge in chambers considered that in “the absence of any threat to public order”, the decision to proceed with the concealment of the window constituted “an illegal decision infringement of freedom of expression such as to engage the responsibility of the State”.
He thus condemned the State to pay the applicants a provision of 1000 euros for their moral and commercial damage, “a sum which is only a provision pending the judgment on the merits”, underlined Me Lorraine Questiaux, lawyer for the plaintiffs, quoted by the press.
The same judge, in a separate judgment, granted a provision of 1000 euros to the author Hélène Devynck, of which several editions of the book “Impunit” were in the window.
It appears that “Ms. Devynck’s book was particularly highlighted in the window, that the posters stuck up took up the title or the themes developed in her book, + Impunity +, in which she deals with gender-based violence that has gone unpunished” and that she is justified in considering that her freedom of expression has been “infringed”, considered the judge in chambers.
France has been the subject of strong criticism in recent months, in particular by human rights organizations for restrictions on freedoms and fundamental rights.
At the beginning of May, the French League for Human Rights (LDH) denounced an “authoritarian turn” in France and a “contempt” for parliamentary and social democracy, which now extends to fundamental rights.
The defense of freedoms has become the “hottest subject of the period” in France, while the freedom to demonstrate is called into question by the toughening of the instructions given to the police and gendarmerie, including with regard to non-violent citizens, which translates into serious injuries, mutilation and a toxic instrumentalization of the police forces, wrote Patrick Baudouin, president of the LDH and its presidents and honorary president, in a collective opinion piece published in the daily Le Monde.
A few days earlier, the UN Human Rights Council had called France to order concerning the human rights situation in the country, pointing in particular to attacks against migrants, racial profiling, police violence and excessive use of force by the authorities during demonstrations.