French authorities should investigate the excessive use of force at Yellow Vest demonstrations across the country, said the head of the UN Human Rights Council (UNHRC) on Wednesday.
"We encourage the government to continue dialogue -- including follow-up to the national discussions which are currently underway," Michelle Bachelet said at the UN offices in Geneva.
Bachelet said the Yellow Vest protesters have been protesting what they see as “exclusion from economic rights and participation in public affairs.”
Since Nov. 17, thousands of protesters wearing bright yellow vests -- dubbed the Yellow Vests -- have gathered in major French cities, including Paris, to protest controversial fuel tax hikes and the country’s deteriorating economy.
According to French government figures, 11 people were killed in protests and over 2,000 injured.
French Interior Minister Christophe Castaner said in February that security forces had arrested some 8,400 people, and at least 1,796 others received prison sentences.
Under pressure, Macron announced a raise in the minimum wage and scuttled the tax hikes.
Since then, however, the protests grew into a broader movement aimed at tackling income inequality and giving citizens a stronger voice in government decision-making.
Turning to the tension between India and Pakistan sparked by Kashmir, Bachelet said: “I remain concerned about the ongoing tensions in Kashmir, as shelling and firing on both sides of the Line of Control continue to contribute to loss of life and displacement.”
She invited India and Pakistan to her office to monitor the situation on the ground and offered both states assistance “to address the human rights issues that must be part of any solution to the conflict.”
Tension between the two nuclear armed-neighbors escalated following a suicide bombing in Indian-administered Kashmir in mid-February that left more than 40 Indian troops dead.
The attack was claimed by Jaish-e-Mohammed (JeM), a militant group that Pakistan has banned since 2002 but is accused by India of providing sanctuary.
Jammu and Kashmir, a Muslim-majority Himalayan region, is held by India and Pakistan in parts and claimed by both in full. A small sliver of Kashmir is also held by China.
Some Kashmiri groups in Jammu and Kashmir have been fighting against Indian rule for independence, or for unification with neighboring Pakistan.
Since they were partitioned in 1947, the two countries have fought three wars -- in 1948, 1965 and 1971 -- two of them over Kashmir.
Writing and Contribution by Erdogan Cagatay Zontur