France: apparent lynching of Roma teenager is latest of several hate crimes

The apparent lynching of a Roma teenager in a Paris suburb that left him in a coma is just one of several recent alleged hate crimes against minorities that demand thorough investigations and not just condemnation by the French authority, Amnesty International has warned.

Instead, the authorities have been focusing their resources on carrying out forced evictions that crack down on Roma and other minority communities, as well as migrants, refugees and asylum-seekers.

Amnesty International’s Europe Deputy Director, Jezerca Tigani said:

“The French authorities are incubating a climate of fear that will generate more such vicious attacks. The ongoing forced evictions of minority and migrant communities around France are inflammatory, and further violate the human rights of the affected communities. Roma and other minorities have a right to protection from discrimination, not additional targeting by the authorities.

“France has an obligation under international law not only to pursue the suspected perpetrators of an alleged hate crime, but also to ensure that the investigation and prosecution uncover and account for the discriminatory nature of the crime.”

Vicious attacks on minorities

According to media reports, a 16-year-old Roma boy living in a squatted building in Pierrefitte-sur-Seine (outside Paris) was reportedly kidnapped, severely injured and left in a coma late last week by around a dozen people who suspected him of burglary. Police reportedly found him unconscious and badly beaten in a trolley outside a supermarket on Friday.

The previous night, 12 June, a 26-year-old man in the northern port town of Calais allegedly shot two migrants from Sudan and Eritrea. The Sudanese man was hospitalised for his injuries, while the suspect was reportedly arrested on 15 June.

Amnesty has not been able to verify whether the victims in these two incidents were targeted mainly or partially because of their minority background, but it has researched past violence and threats against minority communities in France and found that while the French Criminal Code treats a discriminatory motive as an “aggravating circumstance” and provides for increased penalties as a response to hate crimes, investigations have lacked specific procedures aimed at tackling discriminatory violence.

Besides facing an ongoing threat of discriminatory violence, Roma and migrants continue to be forcibly evicted by French authorities in violation of international and domestic safeguards.

A 200-strong Roma community in Bobigny, near Paris, and another with 400 people in La Parette, Marseille, are at risk of being evicted in the coming days. Neither community has been properly consulted or offered any alternative housing.

Migrants, refugees and asylum-seekers are also at risk of such forced evictions. On 28 May, French authorities forcibly evicted an estimated 700 migrants and asylum-seekers from makeshift camps in Calais in response to an outbreak of scabies.

Jezerca Tigani added: 

“Whether faced with a public health scare or alleged hate crimes, instead of resolving the issue at hand, the French authorities seem to resort to forced evictions as a backup plan. This is a dangerous and unlawful response that will only exacerbate the underlying problems and make hundreds of people homeless in the process."

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