Amnesty urges France to protect indigenous rights in New Caledonia

Amnesty urges France to protect indigenous rights in New Caledonia

FRANCE- New Caledonia saw widespread demonstrations following a resolution by the French parliament granting voting rights to French nationals who have resided in the Pacific Islands region for ten years or longer in provincial elections. According to the French government, these measures preserve democracy throughout the archipelago. However, the local populace, especially the 40% of Indigenous Kanak people who live on the islands, fears this could jeopardize their attempts to gain independence from France.

French State of Emergency and Indigenous Rights:

In response to the recent upheaval in Kanaky New Caledonia, a non-self-governing French territory, Amnesty International’s Pacific Researcher Kate Schuetze stated thatThe French Parliament adopted a bill changing the territory’s voting rules. People’s rights must not be inadvertently restricted by the French government’s declaration of a state of emergency, the French army’s deployment, and the social media app TikTok’s prohibition. The prolonged, nonviolent aspirations for self-determination made by the Indigenous Kanak people must be viewed in the context of racial inequity, a stagnant decolonization process, and the very concerning violence and the French government’s response. 

Banning the app seems like a clearly disproportionate measure that would likely violate the right to freedom of expression unless there is solid evidence that TikTok is involved in inciting violence or that the restriction otherwise serves a legitimate goal that cannot be met through less restrictive means. Additionally, it may create a risky precedent that France and other governments around the world might use to conveniently excuse shutdowns in response to public protests.

Decolonization challenges and unrest in Kanaky

On May 16, the government of France declared a state of emergency, stationed troops at the international airport and ports of New Caledonia, and outlawed TikTok. Plans to weaken a 1998 agreement that restricted voting rights by amending the French constitution have been the source of simmering anger among the Indigenous Kanak people for weeks. On Saturday, hundreds of highly armed French marines and police patrolled Noumea, the country’s capital. After three nights of looting, burning, and violent battles that resulted in six fatalities, the streets were littered with wreckage. 

The protests are purportedly being orchestrated by the pro-independence party CCAT, according to French officials. Authorities have placed ten activists under home detention on charges of planning the violence. Since its colonization in the late 1800s, New Caledonia has been a part of France. The question of whether the islands should be autonomous, independent, or a part of France continues to dominate politics centuries later, with views mostly divided along ethnic lines.

UN Calls for Self-Determination Process

The rights of the Indigenous Kanak people, including the freedom of peaceful assembly and speech, must be respected by the French government. It should be acceptable for those who support independence to voice their opinions in a calm manner. The UN General Assembly once again called 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” in a 2023 resolution that followed a report by the UN Special Political and Decolonization Committee. According to, Since 2018, there have been three independence referendums. 

The most recent one, in 2021, was boycotted by Indigenous voters and received harsh criticism due to the pandemic’s disproportionate effects on Kanaks. Since the Accord has already expired, there is no established procedure to guarantee the decolonization process’s further stages. As per, Additionally, it may create a risky precedent that France and other governments around the world could easily use as a handy justification for shutdowns in response to public protests.

Boycott Pairs Olympics 2024 due to human rights violation in France

Amnesty International has urged France to protect Indigenous rights in New Caledonia amid growing unrest and changes to voting laws that threaten the Kanak people’s self-determination. The French Parliament’s resolution, allowing French nationals to vote after ten years of residency, has sparked widespread protests in the Pacific Islands region. These measures are seen as jeopardizing the Kanak’s independence efforts, leading to fears of increased racial inequality and stalled decolonization. In light of these tensions, some advocates have called for a boycott of the Paris 2024 Olympics to draw international attention to the plight of Indigenous peoples in New Caledonia.



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