France just banned this climate activism group. Here’s why Human Rights Watch called the move ‘chilling’.
Climate activists in France are being “systematically targeted with repression,” Greta Thunberg has warned, as outrage over the dissolution of an environmentalist group grows.
On Wednesday, the French government shut down the environmental activist group Les Soulevements de la Terre (‘Earth Uprisings’).
Authorities accuse the group of provoking violence - but campaigners insist that the crackdown is disproportionately harsh.
Speaking at a climate finance summit in Paris, 20 year-old Thunberg expressed concern over increasingly tough anti-protest laws.
"We are seeing extremely worrying developments where activists all over the world are experiencing increased repressions just for fighting for our present and our future," the Swedish activist warned.
"For example, here in France just the other day, they are paying the price for defending life and for the right to protest."
NGOs have called the crackdown “chilling” and “hostile.”
“Dissolving an independent organisation undermines lawful activism and will have a serious chilling effect on the rights to freedom of expression, association, and peaceful assembly,” said Eva Cosse, senior Europe researcher at Human Rights Watch.
“Instead of dissolving environmental groups, the government should live up its commitment to protect the environment and investigate the concerns these groups raise.”
Dissolving an independent organisation should be a measure of last resort only, the group insist.
Why has the French government banned Earth Uprisings?
Les Soulèvements de la Terre encompasses multiple environmental activist associations across France.
Founded in early 2021, the group undertake direct action protests like blockades and land occupations.
After the incident, the government vowed to dissolve the group.
Government spokesman Olivier Véran said that activists “whipped up violence” and “invited rioters from across Europe.”
But France’s human rights’ organisation insist that police started the violence, firing teargas grenades and rubber bullets at peaceful protesters.
In June, UN experts criticised French authorities for excessive force, urging police to exercise proportionality.
Soulèvements de la Terre has vowed to fight on.
“Trying to silence the Soulèvements de la Terre is a vain attempt to break the thermometer instead of worrying about the temperature,” they said in a statement.
“[We] cannot be dissolved because it is multiple and alive. You don't dissolve a movement, you don't dissolve a revolt.”