NGOs Threaten Joint Suit Over Racial Profiling By French Police


NGOs threaten joint suit over racial profiling by French police

Paris, (UrduPoint / Pakistan Point News - 27th Jan, 2021 ) :A group of NGOs on Wednesday threatened the French state with a class-action lawsuit over racial profiling by the police during ID checks, a longstanding complaint among French people of colour.

Human Rights Watch, the French branch of Amnesty International and four other groups gave the government four months to act to end the "discriminatory identity checks" or face legal action.

The move comes as allegations mount of police racism, poisoning relations between the force and residents of high-rise housing estates with large immigrant populations.

In December, President Emmanuel Macron admitted to a problem of discrimination against people of African or Arab descent.

"When you have a skin colour that is not white, you are stopped much more (by police). You are identified as a problem factor. And that cannot be justified," he told the Brut video news portal.

He was speaking after a video showing white officers beating up an unarmed black music producer in his Paris studio went viral in November.

The 350-page warning letter sent on Wednesday to Prime Minister Jean Castex, Interior Minister Gerald Darmanin and Justice Minister Eric Dupond-Moretti includes testimony from dozens of alleged victims of racial profiling in nine French cities.

The groups demanded a change in the criminal code to "explicitly ban discrimination during identity checks".

Their other demands included setting up an independent mechanism for hearing allegations of racial profiling and giving people subjected to an ID check a written record of the operation.

Failure by the state to act could lead to the first ever class-action lawsuit against the state, lawyer Antoine Lyon-Caen said.

"It's not about accusing the police of being racist but about a system that itself generates discriminatory practices," Lyon-Caen said in a virtual press conference Wednesday.

- Blacks, Arabs targeted - The warning comes a few days before the start of a summit convened by Macron to discuss how to improve relations between the police and communities following mass demonstrations in November over police brutality.

A study carried out in 2009 by the Open Society Justice Initiative, one of the NGOs behind Wednesday's threat of legal action, and French state research body CNRS showed that black people in Paris were six times more likely to be stopped for their ID than whites.

People with features seen as "Arab" were eight times more likely to be asked to show their papers.

Several notorious incidents of police brutality have taken place during stop-and-search operations.

In one case that sparked particular outrage, black youth worker Theo Luhaka suffered severe injuries in 2017 after being sodomised with a police baton during an ID check.

In 2016, France's highest court had rapped the state for "discriminatory" checks and ordered it to pay damages to three people.

- Written proof - Rights groups have long called for people singled out for ID checks to be given a receipt which they could produce to avoid being asked repeatedly for their papers.

Socialist ex-president Francois Hollande vowed to combat racial profiling during his 2012-17 tenure but proposals to trial a receipt scheme were torpedoed by then interior minister Bernard Cazeneuve, who said it would foster distrust of the police.

Macron, in the Brut interview, announced plans to set up a website where people could file complaints of discrimination.

His remarks caused anger among police unions, which deny any problem of institutional racism and complain that they are the victims of violence from an increasingly hostile public.