Police abuse goes unchecked in France
Video: Police impunity in France
© Amnesty International
2 April 2009
French police have been accused of committing gross human rights violations – often against ethnic minorities – for which they are seldom brought to justice, says a new Amnesty International report.
Allegations of unlawful killings, beatings, racial abuse and excessive use of force by France’s police officers are rarely investigated effectively.
"In a climate where police abuse can go unchecked, the pattern of de facto impunity with regard to law enforcement officials in France is unacceptable," said David Diaz-Jogeix, Deputy Director of the Europe and Central Asia Programme at Amnesty International.
Procedures for investigating complaints against the police in France fail to meet standards required by international law. Victims of or witnesses to police ill-treatment increasingly find themselves charged with the criminal offences of insulting or assaulting a police officer.
Amnesty International’s research shows that the vast majority of complaints concern French citizens from ethnic minorities or foreign nationals.
"Law enforcement officials in France perform a difficult and dangerous task, often at great personal risk. However, when police misconduct takes place it must be investigated promptly, thoroughly, independently and impartially," David Diaz-Jogeix said.
"People need to trust their police. Currently, this is frequently not the case. This will not be possible until they see that appropriate disciplinary measures are taken in time and officers responsible for criminal conduct are brought to justice."
Although not every complaint made against the police has merit, there are large discrepancies between the number of complaints made and the number of disciplinary sanctions imposed.
According to limited information, from the 663 complaints examined by the police inspectorate in 2005, 16 resulted in dismissal. In 2006, from the 639 allegations of violence, only eight ended with dismissal. A high number of complaints against law enforcement officials are closed by the prosecutor without reaching trial.
"People have a right to complain but when it comes to the police, the odds are stacked against you if you want to make a complaint. The judicial system is institutionally biased in their favour. Victims, many of whom are French citizens from an ethnic minority or foreign nationals, are all too often left without justice," David Diaz-Jogeix said.
Amnesty International has called on the French authorities to take steps to reform the current system and create an independent police complaints commission with adequate powers and resources to conduct thorough and effective investigations.
"The French authorities must take measures to ensure that no-one is above the law. It is crucial that the public has confidence in the police force," David Diaz-Jogeix said.
France must do more for victims of police ill-treatment (Appeal for Action, 2 April 2009)
France: Public outrage: Police officers above the law in France
Date Published: 2 April 2009