Three Nouméa police officers face prosecution after viral violent video

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By Patrick Decloitre, RNZ Pacific correspondent French Pacific desk

Three Nouméa municipal policemen are now facing a prosecution after a disturbing video was posted in a Facebook neighbourhood watch group, allegedly implicating them in acts of severe violence against a Kanak man they had just arrested.

The municipal police officers are not part of the French security forces that have been sent to restore law and order, RNZ Pacific understands.

Initial investigations established that the violence took place on at 6th Kilometre, on the night of May 25-26, and that it “followed the arrest of several persons suspected of a theft attempt”, Nouméa Public Prosecutor Yves Dupas said in a statement yesterday.

The incident was captured in a brief video, later posted on social networks, being shared hundreds of times and going viral.

“It is the management of municipal police themselves who have signalled this to us”, Dupas said.

The Public Prosecutor’s Office said it had verified the authenticity of the short footage which depicted a “representative of the security forces striking a violent foot kick to the head of a person sitting on the ground after he was arrested”.

On the same video, the other two officers, all equipped with riot gear, are seen to be standing by, surrounding the victim.

Dupas said a formal inquiry was now underway against the three municipal police officers who were now facing charges of “violence from a person entrusted with public authority and failure to assist a person in peril”.

“This case will be treated with every expected severity, being related to presumed facts of illegitimate violence on the part of officers entrusted with a mission of administrative and judicial police”, the statement said.

It added that “this is the first case being treated for this type of act since the beginning of civil unrest in New Caledonia” and further stressed that law enforcement agencies deployed on the ground have displayed “professionalism” in the “difficult management of the law enforcement operations carried out”.

“The victim remains to be approached by investigators in order to undergo medical examination and assess his current health condition.”

TikTok ban lifted
New Caledonia has also now lifted a ban on TikTok imposed earlier this month in response to grave civil unrest and rioting.

The announcement was made as part of the French High Commissioner Louis Le Franc during his daily update on the situation.

“As a follow-up to the end of the state of emergency since Tuesday, 28 May, 2024, the ban on the platform TikTok has been lifted,” a statement said.

The ban was announced on May 15 in what was then described as an attempt to block contacts between rioting groups in the French Pacific territory.

It had since then been widely contested as a breach of human rights.

Doubts had also been expressed on how effective the measure could have been, with other platforms (such as Facebook, WhatsApp or Viber) remaining accessible and the fact that the ban on Tiktok could be easily dodged with VPN tools.

Christian Karembeu speaking to Europe 1 on Monday 27 May 2024 - Photo screenshot
Christian Karembeu speaking to Europe 1 on Monday . . .. Photo: Screenshot/

World Cup 1998 winner Karembeu ‘in mourning’
Earlier this week, former footballer and 1998 World Cup champion Christian Karembeu made a surprise revelation saying two members of his family had been shot dead during the riots.

Speaking to French radio Europe 1 on Monday, Karembeu said: “I have lost members of my family, that’s why I remained silent (until now), because I am in mourning.”

“Two members of my family have been shot with a bullet in the head. These are snipers. The word is strong but they have been assassinated and we hope investigations will be made on these murders”, the Kanak footballer said, adding the victims were his nephew and his niece.

Karembeu’s career involves 53 tests for the French national football team, one world cup victory (1998), playing for prestigious European clubs such as Nantes, Sampdoria, and Real Madrid (where he won two Champions League titles), Olympiakos, Servette, and Bastia.

He is now a strategic advisor and ambassador for Greek club Olympiakos.

Reacting to Karembeu’s announcements, Chief Prosecutor Dupas told public broadcaster NC la Première on Tuesday he believed Karembeu was referring to the two Kanak people who were killed earlier this month in Nouméa’s industrial zone of Ducos.

“I do not know what his family kinship relation is with those two victims who were assassinated in Ducos,” he said.

“But concerning these facts, an investigation is underway, it has gotten pretty far already, one (European) company manager has been arrested and remains in custody. The Justice is processing all the facts, crimes, committed.”

“We have, among the civilian victims, four persons of the Kanak community and it is a possibility that some of those could be related to Christian Karembeu”, he said.

Asked on a possibly higher number of fatalities, he stressed the death toll so far remained at seven.

“We have not received any other complaint regarding people shooting civilians”, he maintained, while encouraging members of the public who would be aware of other fatal incidents to come forward and contact his office.

Targeted by civilian gunmen
However, on Tuesday, La Première TV reported that unidentified Kanak people spoke out to say that they were directly targeted by gunshots on May 15 while they were at a roadblock held by alleged members of armed militia groups in Nouméa’s industrial zone of Ducos.

“We arrived in our car, I saw the roadblock, I barely had time to reverse and go back and they started to shoot. About 10 times,” the unidentified witness said, showing two bullet holes on his car.

“I have lodged a complaint for murder attempt and now the investigation is ongoing,” he said.

Two other Kanaks said the following day, on May 16, while in the streets of their neighbourhood, they were shot at by balaclava-clad passengers of two driving by pick-up trucks.

“We started to run and that’s when we heard the first gunshots. My little brother managed to take shelter at a neighbour’s home, and I went on running with the 4WD behind me. When I arrived at my family’s home, I jumped into the garden and that’s when I heard a second gunshot”, he told La Première.

“We never thought this would happen to us”.

Dupas said another, wider investigation, was underway since May 17 in order to identify “those who are pulling the ropes and who led the “planning and committing of attacks that have hit New Caledonia”.

“This means anyone, whatever his/her level of implication, whether order-givers or just actors”.

Latest update
The state of emergency was lifted on Tuesday in New Caledonia following an announcement from French President Emmanuel Macron, who was in New Caledonia on a 17-hour visit last Thursday.

The end of the state of emergency was described by Macron as being part of the “commitments” he made while meeting representatives of New Caledonia’s pro-independence movement last week and to allow leaders to spread the message to people to lift roadblocks and barricades and “loosen the grip”.

However, a dusk-to-dawn (6pm to 6am) curfew remains in place, including a ban on public meetings, the sale of alcohol and the possession and transportation of firearms and ammunition, French High Commissioner Louis Le France said yesterday.

An estimated 3500 security forces (police, gendarmes and special riot squads) remain on the ground.

Taxis have announced they were now resuming service, but bus services remain closed because “too many roads remain impracticable”.

High Commissioner Le Franc said that since the unrest began on May 13, a total of 535 people had been arrested, 136 security forces (police and gendarmes) had been injured and the death toll remained at seven (including two gendarmes, four indigenous Kanaks and one person of European ascent).

This article is republished under a community partnership agreement with RNZ.

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