Romain Rouillard 19:01 pm, March 21, 2023

The adoption of the pension reform through Article 49.3 of the Constitution has generated, since last week, a wave of protest throughout the country. Various undeclared events are organized throughout France. Participating in it exposes you to criminal penalties. Europe 1 takes stock.

Anger is brewing against the pension reform and the use of 49.3 to pass it without a vote. In Paris as in the provinces, illegal gatherings have occurred regularly since last Thursday, mainly in the evening, and can lead to overflows. This was again the case Monday night in the capital where 234 people were arrested throughout the city while the police prefecture had forbidden the demonstrators to go to the Place de la Concorde. In Lille or Marseille this weekend, the situation has also flared up. Participants in these undeclared gatherings are however subject to criminal penalties up to and including prison.


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While freedom of assembly is guaranteed by Article 9 of the European Convention on Human Rights, it cannot be exercised unconditionally. The penal code stresses the need to declare each demonstration and recalls that any organizer of a rally who does not respect this rule incurs "six months imprisonment" and "7,500 euros fine". The penalty is the same if a demonstration is held despite a prior ban by the authorities. An "incomplete or inaccurate statement likely to mislead as to the object or conditions of the planned demonstration" is also punishable by such a penalty.

Offences that are difficult to characterize

For individuals who simply participate in this type of event, without being part of the organization, a simple fine of 750 euros is provided. As for the perpetrators of degradation, much heavier penalties can be imposed. The penal code states that a person guilty of offences and disturbances of public order may be banned from demonstrating but also the withdrawal of certain civil rights, such as the right to vote or to stand for election. The penalties can even go as far as a ban on staying on French territory. Concealing one's face when violent actions are committed is also prohibited and can lead to a one-year prison sentence, accompanied by a fine of 15,000 euros.


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However, in practice, these sanctions are only very rarely applied. 24 hours after the undeclared demonstration Place de la Concorde which followed the use of 49.3 to adopt the reform, the Paris prosecutor's office told BFMTV that about a third of police custody had been lifted. The proceedings were therefore discontinued in particular because of the difficulties encountered in characterizing the offences committed.