The University of Assas forbids a human rights association to enter a public conference

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Monika Karbowska

On 1 June, as Wikijustice Julian Assange Association, we wanted to participate in the conference given by Maitre Antoine Vey, accompanied by Mrs Stella Morris at the University of Paris Assas, 92 rue d’Assas in Paris.

Antoine Vey, a close associate since 2013  of Macron and Castex’s current Minister of Justice, Eric Dupont Moretti, had participated with him in the press conference about the Julian Assange situation on 20 February 2020 in Paris. However, I never saw him in London at any of the hearings of the Julian Assange trial, neither at the Westminster Court, nor at the Old Bailey, nor at Woolwich Court in February 2020. So I was curious to hear how someone who is not a British lawyer and has not been involved in any stage of Julian Assange’s journey would explain the legal strategy intended to be applied to him today.

I registered with my colleagues on 26 May on the event’s website where participation was free of charge: this seemed normal, given that the University of Assas is the prestigious and historic Law Faculty of the University of Paris and therefore a public university paid for by our taxes. Of course, the Evenbrite company that manages the tickets on behalf of the student association that is supposed to organise the event is located in San Francisco. It is a bit strange that a French university and a French lawyer need an American organisation to register participants for a conference on a political and legal topic at a French public university, but this could be due to the ignorance or intellectual laziness that is the bedrock of many of the dysfunctions we experience in our society.

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Having quickly obtained my registration ticket, I was not suspicious. The evening before the event, at 10:45, Tribunes Assas, a student association which is the organiser of the debate, wrote me an email:

« You have booked two tickets for tomorrow’s conference at the Assas Centre at 10.30am; unfortunately this is not possible, or we need the name of the second person. If you do not have the name of the second person, they will not be able to enter the university. Thank you for giving us an answer very quickly, Tribunes Assas.

I replied that it was a bug, that I only wanted to reserve one place and I took the opportunity to ask if I had to show an identity document at the entrance. On behalf of Tribunes Assas, the president Raphaëlle de Villeneuve de Flayosc and the vice-president Eulalie Montoya gave their written answer on 31 May at 9.25 pm: « Yes, you need an identity document or any other proof of identity. Thank you ».

At 9.33pm I received an email from Eventbrite signed Tribunes Assas: « We remind you that the conference you have registered for will take place tomorrow morning at 92 rue d’Assas, amphitheatre 1. Please present an ID at the entrance and arrive at 10.15am, i.e. 15 minutes before the scheduled start time of 10.30am ».

Everything seemed normal

After a 2 hour drive from my suburban home I showed up with my Wikijustice colleague at 10.20 AM at the entrance of 92 rue d’Assas, a brand new building in the massive « 1936 Olympics » style favoured by property developers currently working hard to transform Paris as part of Mayor Hidalgo’s disastrous 2024 Olympics policy.

We queue up with young people as a middle-aged man who looks like a college page stands at the front door, list of names in hand, inspecting IDs. I was surprised when the man saw the invitation with the Event Brite and QR code on it and said « you can’t come in ».

 I was stunned, but before I could reply, a young blonde girl with curly hair and a mask (you never know who you’re dealing with with those damn masks…) came running up to me and said « it’s only for Assas students ». I am more than surprised, on the one hand because I don’t know who she is, she doesn’t wear any identification, and on the other hand because I had received the confirmation email signed by Raphaëlle de Villeneuve de Flayosc and Eulalie Montoya the previous evening.

I replied that I was duly registered, that Tribunes Assas had even sent this confirmation email and had even answered my question as to whether I needed an identity document without ever telling me that participation was reserved for students only! Moreover, it is not mentioned in the conference presentation leaflet that has been widely circulated on social networks that the conference would be closed. On the contrary, the presentation leaflet suggested that participation was free and physically possible.

I put my ticket under her nose and rummage through my phone looking for the confirmation email I had received the day before from the organisers. The girl is unpleasant and wants me to believe that the public presentation leaflet limited participation to students. I was annoyed, « But that’s not true! The publications never announced that! Why do you circulate the invitation in activist circles if it is not possible to go there? Why did you answer my questions about ID if your conference was limited to students from the start? Why didn’t you tell me yesterday? « 

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As for the covid rules that the lady clumsily wants to use to deny me entry, I answer as I have answered at Westminster Court more than ten times: « I am in the queue before the conference starts, there is no reason for others to go before me if the number of places is limited because of so-called covid. First arrived, first served! That’s the fair rule of equality between men!

Another young woman rushes up to me, she is dark-haired, long hair, I can’t see her face under the mask but her voice is softer: « We’re sorry but we actually sent you an email this morning to tell you ».

I remain polite, but my annoyance is the same: « You can’t change the rules of the game at the last minute! It’s not democratic!

My colleague then tries to explain to a boy who we are. I add, as we are still standing on the left of the door, just 2 metres away to let the others in the queue in as they are allowed to.

The dark-haired girl then tells me « you can follow the conference on zoom ». This is exactly the kind of thing that annoys me the most. I say, « Democracy is not zoom. Democracy is lived openly and in real life. Moreover, the mask should be removed so that we can see who we are dealing with. You can’t have a dialogue with people whose faces you can’t see.

I put my money where my mouth is and show my face to these young people who are in the strange habit of living with a permanent veil over their mouths, like the women forced to live like this in Saudi Arabia until recently. A tense dialogue begins.

So I ask these young people what they know about the Julian Assange trial. Seeing the fifty or so 20 year olds holding up their student cards with a disillusioned look on their faces and listening to their conversations, we understand that they are not particularly interested in Julian Assange, but that they are only attending this event to get a grade and validate their year of study. So we set about explaining to them who we are and how we helped save Julian Assange from illegal extradition. I tell them that London is the place to go, that I have been to 23 hearings, that you have to get up early and queue to get into court, that Wikijustice has written 14 requests for release to the English courts and sent them to all the MPs, the Lords, the legal and political institutions of the UK, the US, the EU… that we received an SOS signed by « Julian Assange » and that with the citizens mobilised in the Yellow Vests movement, we went to his aid..

That they, future French judges and lawyers, future graduates of this prestigious and famous Faculty of Law called « Université Paris II Assas », must understand that they cannot, do not have the right to arbitrarily close the door of an open conference in a public university paid by our taxes, or else we are no longer in a democracy!

We speak with an ever louder voice to make ourselves heard by the students who are listening to us from their seats in line. The more our indignation rises, the more we measure the injustice and arbitrariness that are displayed before us in all their horror: citizens, human rights activists, kicked out of a public university where they came to listen to a public conference on the fate of a political prisoner whom they defended against all odds… Citizens who are members of an association for the defence of human rights kicked out of the University of Paris II Assas by the students of this university, students who will be the future judges, lawyers and politicians of our country! This is where our country is heading if we do not resist!

A few minutes later, I move to the left side of the entrance door to think in the shade about the strategy to follow. But I don’t have time to put my bag on the floor and pick up my phone, the young student leaders fade away and two men come out of the building. They rush towards us and shout at us before we can think about the situation. The first is short, with brown hair, wearing a black shirt, light-coloured trousers and a mask. He rushes at me and tells me to get out: « go away, get out, you don’t belong here ». I am not used to being spoken to in this tone in social life. The man looks like a security guard, he wears a badge at the end of a cord hanging around his neck. But I don’t let it bother me. When he comes towards me, I face him:

I reply, « Who are you to talk to me like that? I am in a public space and I have the right to stay here ». He looks at me with contempt: « This is a private conference, this is private, go away ». My colleague and I became increasingly indignant. « No. We are outside, in a public space ».

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We are standing in the small square on the left side of the entrance door, we are not in the way and we are not preventing the line of young people from entering the building. The tone rises.

I still don’t know who this man is who hasn’t introduced himself. I know that a private security guard must, according to book VI of the Code of Internal Security[1], wear a uniform but which must not resemble that of a police uniform as well as a badge with his name and the name and logo of his company. The man is in civilian clothes and I can see a red white and blue flag on his badge.

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Faced with his increasingly threatening attitude, I stand firm in my defence of the law and fundamental human rights, because what is happening is the last straw in front of a university that trains citizens who are supposed to ensure that these rights are respected everywhere and in all circumstances. Mr Vey, Mr Moretti, the organisers of the conference and the management of Assas have an annoying tendency to confuse censorship, dictatorship and human rights. One can only doubt the effectiveness of Julian Assange’s French lawyers, for how can they defend a man who has sacrificed his life for freedom of expression if they do not do everything possible to ensure that their fellow citizens are free to inform themselves, to express themselves and to enter a place dedicated to popular culture, a state university?

I ask the security guard to call someone in charge and the police, because I am sure of my right and I have never had an inappropriate or violent attitude in this whole affair. Nobody from Assas University will call the police. A second man, wearing a white shirt and jeans, comes out of the building to help his colleague. Both of them push us back towards the street. I don’t let myself be kicked out of the university and I stay in front of the gate. The tension is still rising. My colleague from Wikijustice explains to the students in line how the Yellow Vests defended Julian Assange and what a real democracy is.

I despair at the submissive attitude of the students locked under their masks: « Today you are firing human rights activists from a public university that they pay for with their taxes, tomorrow in 20 years you will be in our place, you will be nothing, you will be slaves! « The young blonde woman who was pretending to be the student leader shrugged her shoulders, « so what, it’s not serious ». Yes, it does matter…

Because when I was a student at Paris I, Panthéon Sorbonne, you could enter the university freely! You could attend a lecture as a free listener, consult books in the library, find out about the course programme, go to an appointment with a professor… Today there is no longer a free university, but it is still paid for by taxpayers, so it is not normal for citizens to be forbidden to enter!

Then a man in his sixties comes out of the faculty accompanied by a slightly younger woman. He wears a white shirt and a red tie, the woman a green skirt and a white blouse. Their masks prevent us from seeing their faces as usual. He doesn’t introduce himself, I don’t know who he is, but with authority he tells me that this is a private place and that we must go to the street. We invariably reply that we are not in La Défense on the premises of a private company but in a public university paid for by our taxes. Dialogue is impossible. However, the man did not threaten me as his security guard had done. After 5 minutes of tense discussion he let go. When I remind him that when he was a student the entrance to the faculty was free, he shrugs his shoulders fatalistically: « That was in the 80s », he says and leaves with the woman towards the building.

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We are here in the oldest and most prestigious law university in France!

As future lawyers, the young conference organisers who hide their faces under a sectarian face covering and prevent citizens from accessing a democratic debate place should know this:

« Forced concealment of the face in violation of 225-4-10 of the French penal code:

« The fact that any person forces one or more other persons to conceal their face by threat, violence, coercion, abuse of authority or abuse of power, because of their sex, is punishable by one year’s imprisonment and a fine of €30,000.

When the act is committed to the detriment of a minor, the penalties are increased to two years’ imprisonment and a €60,000 fine.

If the forced concealment of the face by abuse of authority is an offence when it is imposed on a citizen because of his or her sex, then such forced concealment is also an offence if it is imposed on a citizen in violation of his or her fundamental rights » .

The obligation to wear a mask is therefore a violation of the right to personal integrity as guaranteed, inter alia, by Article 3 of the Charter of Rights of the European Union.

« Everyone has the right to physical and mental integrity.

In the context of medicine and biology, the following must be respected in particular

The free and informed consent of the person concerned, in accordance with the procedures laid down by law, the prohibition of eugenic practices, in particular those aiming at the selection of persons. the prohibition of making the human body and its parts as such a source of financial gain, the prohibition of the reproductive cloning of human beings. »

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I am still stunned by the violence of what I have just experienced. I watch what is happening. The two plainclothes security guards stand in front of the door. They take the place of the Assas caretaker and some other men wearing badges with the university logo. I want to understand who they are.

I spend half an hour watching them. They behave very cool. They approach the gate, walk around the small square, chat with a young man who in a minibus with the University logo brings a pallet of food: an aperitif for the conference participants? I can clearly see the blue white and red badge of the two men.

So I approach them and ask their names: a private security guard MUST identify himself to the person asking if he has any authority to screen access. No sooner have I finished my sentence than the two men, in concert, hide their badges in their shirt pockets! I am shocked. Why are they hiding their identity?

The most arrogant one looked at me with contempt « I won’t tell you ». I reply: « You know very well that a private security guard must have a badge with his name visible on it and must declare his identity. He then said to me « I am a civil servant ». I reply, « Even more so if you are a civil servant, you don’t have the right to conceal your identity »!

The two men laughed in my face, satisfied to enjoy their arbitrary power. No matter how much I talk to them about Law and Rights, in front of the historic University of Law in Paris, they don’t care. It is symbolically very violent. I tried to argue, to take as a witness a fire safety officer who came to join us, who is much more sympathetic and who knows the CNAPS code of internal security well because fire safety officers depend on it in the same way as security officers, even though they don’t do the same job… Nothing helped. The Law Faculty of Assas is guarded by mysterious men who do not answer to any Law.

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They are mercenaries in the service of a private entity. They have a priori no business in a public university. Unless, Assas has been sold by the French government as was the Sorbonne Paris III according to the testimony of local residents. If this is the case, it is a theft because public property belongs to the citizens even if it is the state that manages it. In a democracy, a government represents the citizens and defends their interests.

Selling France’s heritage is an act of treason that falls under the 410-1 of the penal code. It is punishable by life imprisonment. :

« Article 410-1. The fundamental interests of the nation are understood in the sense of this title to be its independence, the integrity of its territory, its security, the republican form of its institutions, the means of its defence and diplomacy, the safeguarding of its population in France and abroad, the balance of its natural environment and the essential elements of its scientific and economic potential and its cultural heritage »

All these security agents we are dealing with behave like militiamen of an occult power displaying the same arrogance as Alexandre Benalla in 2017. The atmosphere is also the one I experienced at Westminster Court in London, when the agents of the Mitie company were guarding Julian Assange on behalf of the Mountnbatten-Windsor brotherhood. Here in front of the University of Paris II Assas, Stella Morris and Antoine Vey are protected by men who claim to be civil servants, who have badges bearing the symbol of the French Republic, and who have enough power to deny us access to the premises. But why are these men working in secret and hiding their names? Who are they?

It was then that the second of the « agents » said to me, without looking me in the eye: « The organisers did not want you to enter. They asked us not to let you in ».

This private « police » is therefore refusing entry to Assas, to a conference on the future of Julian Assange, to the only human rights association that has done everything possible to have him released, that has received an SOS from him that gives it full legitimacy to represent him and defend his interests, and that bears his name to pay tribute to his struggle.

Who are the organisers of this secret meeting in a French public university? Who is this militia?

What has France become?

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Article 223-6

Amended by LAW n°2018-703 of 3 August 2018 – art. 5

« Anyone who can prevent by his immediate action, without risk to himself or to third parties, either a crime or an offence against the physical integrity of the person, voluntarily refrains from doing so shall be punished by five years’ imprisonment and a fine of 75,000 euros.

Any person who voluntarily refrains from giving assistance to a person in danger, which he could have done without risk to himself or to third parties, either by his own action or by provoking help, shall be liable to the same penalties.

The penalties are increased to seven years’ imprisonment and a fine of 100,000 euros when the crime or offence against the physical integrity of the person mentioned in the first paragraph is committed against a minor of fifteen years of age or when the person in danger mentioned in the second paragraph is a minor of fifteen years of age »


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