The ECHR condemns France for the house arrest of an environmental activist during COP21

France was condemned on Thursday May 16 by the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) for the house arrest of an environmental activist during COP21 in Paris in 2015, on the basis of state of emergency declared after the attacks of November 13

The ECHR condemns France for the house arrest of an environmental activist during COP21

France was condemned on Thursday May 16 by the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) for the house arrest of an environmental activist during COP21 in Paris in 2015, on the basis of state of emergency declared after the attacks of November 13.

In a ruling, the ECHR ordered Paris to pay 11,500 euros to Joël Domenjoud in compensation, but rejected a similar appeal filed by his brother Cédric, also an environmental activist.

The two brothers, born in 1982 and 1985 respectively, were the subject, from November 26 to December 12, 2015, of a summons to their respective commune in the Paris region, at the time when COP21 was taking place (from November 30 to December 12), which would lead to the Paris climate agreement. The activists had to report three times a day to the police station and stay at home between 8 p.m. and 6 a.m., recalls the ECHR.

A measure against the “radical protest movement”

The Minister of the Interior at the time, Bernard Cazeneuve, based himself on the state of emergency proclaimed on November 14 by President François Hollande following the jihadist attacks in Paris and Saint-Denis (130 dead). The ministry said it feared violent actions during the summit and accused the two brothers of being the “main leaders of the radical protest movement” in the Paris region.

Their appeals to the French courts were rejected, which led them to refer the matter to the ECHR. In the case of Joël Domenjoud, European judges found that the measures taken by Paris had violated Article 2 of Protocol Number 4 of the European Convention on Human Rights (freedom of movement). The ECHR considers that political beliefs do not justify house arrest.

Nothing “indicates that the applicant personally considered participating in violent actions,” observes the ECHR. “The Court considers that the radicality of its political convictions is not sufficient, in this case, to materialize” a risk of excess. On the other hand, concerning his brother Cédric, the judges noted that he “had already been convicted of acts of damage” and that he “planned to be hired by a service provider in order to be able to enter the conference site climate”.

The measure was ordered “at a time when the protection of the population undoubtedly constituted a compelling need and when large gatherings were particularly exposed to the terrorist threat.” “In these very particular circumstances”, the ECHR considers that the measure “presented a sufficient link with the framework of the state of emergency”. But “the existence of a family link with a person likely to commit offenses is not enough to justify a preventive measure”, underlined the judges in defense of Joël Domenjoud.