France: Police brutality allegations not investigated, says new Amnesty report

A new report from Amnesty International reveals today that allegations of beatings, racial abuse, excessive force and even unlawful killings by French police are rarely investigated effectively and those responsible are seldom brought to justice.

The 46-page report, Public Outrage: police officers above the law in France details numerous cases, predominantly of ethnic minorities and foreign nationals living in France, who allege police brutality and other human rights violations. Cases profiled include those of two pregnant Women's rights's rightss rights's rights's rights's rights who allege they were punched by police officers, two men who died after being reportedly ill-treated and a disabled man who required stitches for a head wound after he was allegedly hit with the butt of a rubber-bullet gun.

The report also highlights the increasing trend for people who are the victims of or witnesses to ill-treatment by law enforcement officials to find themselves charged with the criminal offences of insulting or assaulting a police officer (“outrage” and “rebellion”).

Procedures for investigating allegations against the police still fail to meet the standards required by international law, according to the report. Amnesty is calling on the French authorities to reform the current system and create an independent police complaints commission which can conduct thorough and effective investigations.

David Diaz-Jogeix, Deputy Director of the Europe and Central Asia Programme at Amnesty International, said:

“In a climate where police abuse can go unchecked, the de facto impunity of law enforcement officials in France is unacceptable. Victims, many of whom are French citizens from an ethnic minority or foreign nationals, are all too often left without justice.

“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.

“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.

“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.”

Although not every complaint made against the police has merit, the discrepancy between the number of complaints made and the number of disciplinary sanctions imposed raises questions about the thoroughness and impartiality of the investigations. According to limited information, from the 663 complaints examined by the police inspectorate in 2005, 16 resulted in dismissal, while 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.

Background
Amnesty International has longstanding and continuing concerns regarding allegations of human rights violations by law enforcement officials in France, and the failure to bring those responsible to justice through independent, impartial and effective investigations. In 2005 the organisation published the report ‘France: The search for justice’, which examined allegations of serious human rights violations by law enforcement officials going back to 1991. The French authorities have failed to implement any of the recommendations from the 2005 report.

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