On 19 June 2024, French authorities apprehended and arrested several CCAT members in New Caledonia and later deported seven of them to France.

These included:

  • Christian Tein, CCAT spokesman, transferred to a jail in Mulhouse (northeast France)
  • Fred Muliava, chief of staff of New Caledonia’s Congress, transferred to a jail in Riom (near Clermont-Ferrand, central France)
  • Brenda Wanabo-Ipeze, CCAT’s communications officer, transferred to a jail in Dijon (southeast France)
  • Yewa Waetheane was sent to a jail in Nevers
  • Dimitri Qenegei was sent to jail in Villefranche-sur-Saone
  • Steve Une was sent to a jail in Blois
  • Guillaume Vama was sent to a jail in Bourges.

Their initial interrogation occurred on 22 June. Later that night, the detainees were removed by private charter to France for pre-trial detention.  According to the local prosecutor Yves Dupas the transfer was organized during the night using a plane specially chartered for the mission.

The question of the location of their pre-trial detention was only raised at the end of the hearing, and the people were taken directly to the airport, according to Odile Macchi, head of the Investigations division of the International Prison Observatory, the OIP. This procedure hasn’t happened since the war in New Caledonia and brings back painful memories.

Authorities did not immediately specify what charges they face. Still, Mr Dupas said his investigation covered armed robbery and conspiracy in murder or attempted murder, according to the French daily Le Monde. Defense lawyers consider magistrates to have acted answering exclusively to political considerations.

The detainees are held in different prisons across metropolitan France, far from their lawyers and family support. For example, Brenda Wanabo-Ipeze left three infants in New Caledonia. Lawyers currently are appealing in the absence of their clients, and for the moment, the investigation continues in Nouméa (New Caledonia).

Among other persons who were indicted at the weekend are Guillaume Vama and Joël Tjibaou, the son of pro-independence FLNKS leader Jean-Marie Tjibaou, who signed the Matignon Accord peace agreement in 1988. Pending a hearing, they have not been transferred to mainland France and will be kept in custody in Nouméa.

CCAT is a coordination body of the anticolonial Kanaky forces that peacefully opposed the last French government decision to reform the current electoral legislation in New Caledonia. The proposed reform would broaden the voters’ eligibility for elections to long-term residents and consequently affect the percentage of indigenous v. colonizers voters, therefore compromising any future self-determination referendum result. The proposed constitutional change would open the list of eligible voters to some 25,000 citizens, mostly non-indigenous Kanaks.

ELDH reaffirms that the New Caledonia issue is a decolonization issue. New Caledonia has been registered since 1986 in the UN decolonization committee’s list of non-decolonised territory, where France is considered a mere administrative power.

Any solution to the New Caledonian issue must be resolved through dialogue and negotiation under the framework of the right to self-determination of colonial territories. This is the same framework that led to the historic Noumea Accords, a crucial part of the historical context that everyone should be aware of.

The transfer or deportation of these militants to France, a staggering 17,000 km away from their families and lawyers, during an investigation process, in a military transport constitutes a degrading and inhumane treatment of detainees. It violates “fundamental rights and, in particular, the maintenance of family rights”, according to Odile Macchi of the International Observatory of Prisons.

Pre-trial detention is unnecessary for people who make public appeals for calm or presents voluntarily as the arrested did. Christian Tein had called for calm a few days after the start of the violence and voluntarily presented himself to the police to report about his activities. This reflects the French authorities’ vindictive attitude towards them.

This situation also affects the necessary and sufficient conditions to guarantee the right to defense, as the investigation procedure is still in Noumea, and the arrested persons are in France at 17.000 km. That means defense lawyers will have to travel to France or connect via telephone or Internet with their clients, with no guarantee of confidentiality of exchanges.

It is worth to note that CCAT activists have been spread across different prisons in France, with no two in the same establishment promoting a policy of dispersion of detainees for political purposes.

For all these we:

  • Denounce the arrest and deportation of anticolonial Kanaky political militants.
  • Request the unconditional release of the detainees and their transfer back to New Caledonia to ensure proper defense.
  • Demand the end of all repressive measures against the peaceful Kanaky anticolonial movement.
  • Reject the French Government and Parliament attempts to unilaterally modify the legislation related to voting eligibility in New Caledonia as an attempt to modify the future conditions for a decolonization process in detriment of the indigenous people of New Caledonia.
  • Call for a negotiated solution to the political conflict based on the respect of the right to self-determination of the Kanaky people. This is a demand and a beacon of hope for a peaceful resolution.

Supported by:

  • Association Française des Juristes Démocrates (AFJD)
  • The Socialist Lawyers Association of Ireland
  • Indian Association of Lawyers
  • Italian Democratic Lawyers (GD)
  • National Union of People’s Lawyers, Philippines
  • Progressive Lawyers Association (ÇHD), Turkey