Calais volunteer’s conviction for Tweet sets a dangerous precedent

Loan Torondel, a former volunteer with Help Refugees partner organisation L’Auberge des Migrants in Calais, France, has been convicted for defamation after posting a photo of two police officers on Twitter.

The tweet, posted by 21-year-old Loan in January 2018, depicts two police officers standing over a resident of one of Calais’ informal camps. Torondel comments on the police confiscation of refugees’ blankets in the caption. In response to the decision, Loan said:

“I acted within my right, I took a picture, I wanted to talk about what was happening in Calais with the collection of blankets in the middle of winter … It still happens… We must continue to talk about it.”

“This is outrageous decision sets a dangerous precedent for anybody attempting to document the disproportionate use of force employed by the police in Calais and throughout the country,” said Nicolas Krameyer, Programme Manager at Amnesty International France. “It will also have a chilling effect on the work of migrant rights defenders and leave migrants and refugees in an even more precarious situation.

“This case highlights the harassment and intimidation of volunteers dedicated to providing aid to migrants and asylum seekers who have been left homeless in northern France after the 2016 closure of the informal ‘Jungle’ camp.

“Criminal defamation laws that inhibit legitimate criticism of public officials are contrary to the right to freedom of expression. The authorities must stop harassing human rights defenders through the courts.”

Loan Torondel is appealing the decision.

An August 2017 survey by Help Refugees and L’Auberge des Migrants found that 76% of refugees and displaced people in Calais had had their blankets taken by police that week; on average, they said it happened three times a week.