Bursting grenade projectiles documented during 2023 May Day protests, Paris. Credit: Robin Ballantyne, Omega Research Foundation
Bursting grenade projectiles documented during 2023 May Day protests, Paris. Credit: Robin Ballantyne, Omega Research Foundation
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Theron v France (third party intervention)

Laurent Theron claimed before the European Court of Human Rights (ECtHR) that the use of an explosive kinetic impact projectile grenade against him at a demonstration he attended amounts to a violation of the substantive provision of Article 3 of the Convention (prohibiting torture or to inhuman or degrading
treatment or punishment) and the lack of sanction against the officer who fired the grenade amounts to a violation of the procedural aspect of Article 3.

CASE BACKGROUND 

On 15 September 2016, Mr Theron was attending a demonstration to protest labour legislation when a police officer launched a Dispositif Balistique de Désencerclement (an explosive grenade that disperses kinetic impact projectiles) towards him. A projectile from the grenade struck Mr Theron, causing irreversible loss of eyesight in his right eye.  

On 16 September 2016, an investigation was launched into the incident. The case was referred to the French criminal court, where the prosecutor filed charges for voluntary act of violence perpetrated by a person holding public authority, in the exercise or at the occasion of the exercise of the functions, causing irreversible harm. The charges specified that the accused and his officers were at the time not encircled, nor subject to an offensive. On 14 December 2022, the jury acquitted the officer on the ground of self-defence, finding that the use of the weapon was proportionate to the situation. The prosecutor decided not to appeal the decision despite the plaintiff’s request. The officer was not subjected to any administrative sanction.   

Mr Theron took his case to the ECtHR, arguing that the use of the grenade was neither necessary or proportionate and amounts to a violation of Article 3 of the Convention. He also argued that the lack of sanction against the officer amounts to a violation of the procedural aspect of Article 3. 

INTERVENTION  

REDRESS and the Omega Research Foundation submitted a joint third-party intervention on 20 March 2024.  

The intervention examined the indiscriminate nature of explosive grenades that disperse kinetic impact projectiles. In particular, the intervention describes the technical features of the explosive stun grenade and particular risks associated with its use as a tool of crowd control in protest situations. The intervention went on to examine the absolute prohibition against torture and other ill-treatment when applied in the contexts of use of force in protests and mass gatherings. In doing so, it analysed the circumstances in which the use of explosive grenades that disperse kinetic impact projectiles could constitute cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or torture. 

Through reference to international standards and the technical specifications of the munition in question, The intervention concluded that such grenades are inherently indiscriminate and the accompanied risks of severe bodily injury reach the minimum level of severity necessary to engage Article 3.  

REDRESS and Omega Research Foundation filed this intervention as part of our work under United Against Torture Consortium. Omega Research Foundation and other civil society organisations  have advocated for the creation of a Torture-Free Trade Treaty, highlighting the devastating impact of less-lethal weapons on protests globally.

QUICK FACTS 

Case name: Theron v France (Application no. 16147/23)   

Court/Body: European Court of Human Rights 

Date intervention filed: 20 March 2024 

Current status: Case Pending  

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