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 authorities, Amnesty International 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.
“By failing to bat an eyelid in the face of alleged hate crimes, the French authorities are incubating a climate of fear that will spawn more such vicious attacks. All those responsible must face thorough investigations and prosecutions that take into account any discriminatory motive behind the assaults,” said Jezerca Tigani, Deputy Director for Europe and Central Asia at Amnesty International.
“In this context, 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.”
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 13 June.
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 hospitalized for his injuries, while the suspect was reportedly arrested on 15 June.
Amnesty International has not been able to verify whether the victims in these two incidents were targeted mainly or partially because of their minority background. But the organization 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.
“Under international law, the French authorities have an obligation 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,” said Jezerca Tigani.
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 thoroughly consulted or offered any alternative housing.
Migrants, refugees and asylum seekers are also at risk of such forced evictions. On 28 May 2014, French authorities forcibly evicted an estimated 700 migrants and asylum-seekers from makeshift camps in Calais in response to an outbreak of scabies.
“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,” said Jezerca Tigani.