Lunes, 20 de mayo, 2024

Responding to ongoing unrest in the non-self-governing French territory of Kanaky New Caledonia after the French Parliament adopted a bill changing the territory’s voting rules, Amnesty International’s Pacific Researcher Kate Schuetze said:

“The state of emergency declared by the French government and the deployment of the French army, coupled with a ban on the social media app TikTok, must not be misused to restrict people’s human rights.

“The deeply worrying violence and the French authorities’ response must be understood through the lens of a stalled decolonisation process, racial inequality and the longstanding, peacefully expressed demands by the Indigenous Kanak people for self-determination.

“In what is undoubtedly a challenging situation for police, sadly including several fatalities, it is imperative that French police and gendarmes only use force as reasonably necessary and prioritize protecting the right to life.

“Unless there is reliable information showing the role of TikTok in inciting violence, or that the restriction otherwise serves a legitimate aim that cannot be met through less restrictive means, banning the app seems a clearly disproportionate measure that would likely constitute a violation of the right to freedom of expression.

“It may also set a dangerous precedent that could easily serve as a convenient example for France and other governments worldwide to justify shutdowns in reaction to public protests.

“French authorities must uphold the rights of the Indigenous Kanak people and the right to peaceful expression and assembly without discrimination. People calling for independence should be able to express their views peacefully.”


The French National Assembly this week adopted a bill which expands the right to vote for newer residents of Kanaky New Caledonia, mostly French nationals. The move is likely to further disenfranchise the Indigenous Kanak people, including at levels of local political representation and in future discussions on decolonisation. No representatives from Kanaky New Caledonia, either Kanak or European, currently sit on the French National Assembly.

In protest at the constitutional change, violent unrest erupted in the capital Nouméa leaving at least 5 people dead so far – three Indigenous Kanaky and two police officers.

French president Emmanuel Macron declared a State of Emergency in the archipelago on Wednesday. The French government, which is the administering power in Kanaky New Caledonia, announced a ban on the social media app TikTok in the territory, as well as deploying hundreds of police reinforcements. The French army has also been deployed to “secure” the islands’ ports and airport.

Authorities have reportedly put protesters who allegedly instigated the violence under house arrest and arrested more than 200 people.

The current unrest follows years of tension regarding the French government’s perceived failure to protect the rights of the Kanak Indigenous people and a lack of clarity in moving towards decolonisation.

In 1998, French authorities and the local government entered the Nouméa Accord, which included commitments to transition to greater independence and self-governance while respecting the rights of the Kanak Indigenous People.

There have been three referendums held on the issue of independence since 2018, the last of which – in 2021 – was boycotted by Indigenous voters and widely criticized because of the disproportionate impact the pandemic had on Kanaks. The Accord has now lapsed, meaning there is no clear process in place to ensure the next steps in the decolonisation process.

In 2011, the UN Special Rapporteur on Indigenous Peoples noted that the Indigenous Kanak people are under-represented in politics and leadership positions, and are less able to access economic, social and cultural rights in the country compared to others living there. These significant racial inequalities persist in Kanaky New Caledonia, despite some attempts to address them.

In a 2023 resolution the United Nations General Assembly, following a report by the UN Special Political and Decolonization Committee, reiterated calls on “the administering Power and all relevant stakeholders in New Caledonia to ensure the peaceful, fair, just and transparent conduct of the next steps of the self-determination process, in accordance with the Nouméa Accord.”