Annual Report: France 2013

Report
May 23, 2013

Annual Report: France 2013

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French Republic

Head of state François Hollande (replaced Nicolas Sarkozy)

Head of government Jean-Marc Ayrault (replaced François Fillon)

Investigations into allegations of deaths in custody, torture and other ill-treatment by police remained ineffective and inadequate. Thousands of Roma were left homeless after being forcibly evicted from informal settlements. The fast-track procedure for

Deaths in custody

Concerns about the promptness, effectiveness and independence of investigations into cases of deaths in police custody remained. Investigations into four long-standing cases of death in custody were closed.

  • On 26 September, the examining magistrate concluded in the case of Abou Bakari Tandia that there was “no evidence to hold a police officer responsible in the process leading to the death of the victim”. Abou Bakari Tandia fell into a coma during the night of 5 to 6 December 2004, when he was being held in the police station of Courbevoie, and died on 24 January 2005. The police officer who performed the restraint technique believed to have put Abou Bakari Tandia into the coma was still in post at another police station at the end of the year. An appeal hearing was pending.
  • On 15 October, in the case of Ali Ziri, a 69-year-old Algerian man who died two days after being held in custody in the Argenteuil police station in June 2009, the judge of Pontoise concluded that “no acts of voluntary violence which may have directly or indirectly caused the death of Ali Ziri” were found. However, an autopsy of April 2011 had confirmed that Ali Ziri died as a result of the restraint techniques he was subjected to and repeated vomiting while held in custody. The police officers involved in the arrest and transportation of Ali Ziri and his friend Arezki Kerfali had never been questioned by the judge. An appeal hearing was pending.
  • Also on 15 October, the case of Mahamadou Maréga, an irregular migrant from Mali who died on 30 November 2010 after being shot twice by an electro-stun device during his violent arrest in Colombes, was closed by the examining magistrate . On 4 May, the Defender of Rights demanded disciplinary proceedings against the law enforcement officials involved, who he considered to have made disproportionate use of their stun devices. An appeal hearing was pending.
  • In December, the case of Mohamed Boukrourou, who died in a police van on 12 November 2009, was dismissed. An appeal of that decision remained pending. At the end of the year, the four police officers involved in his arrest in Valentigney were reportedly still in office and had not faced disciplinary proceedings.

Investigations proceeded in other cases.

  • On 24 February, three of the seven policemen involved in the death of Abdelhakim Ajimi during his arrest on 9 May 2008 were given suspended custodial sentences of six, 18 and 24 months respectively by the Grasse Criminal Court. Amnesty International expressed concern that these sentences did not match the gravity of the offence committed. The three policemen appealed the decision. Four others implicated in the incident were acquitted.
  • Little progress was made in the investigation of Lamine Dieng's death during his arrest on 17 June 2007 in Paris. Lamine Dieng had been restrained by police officers on the street and then in a police vehicle, where he lost consciousness and died of mechanical asphyxia.

Torture and other ill-treatment

The Criminal Code continued to lack a definition of torture in line with international standards. There was a lack of prompt, independent, impartial and effective investigations into allegations of ill-treatment by law enforcement officials. On 19 April, the European Committee for the Prevention of Torture called for “zero tolerance” of police ill-treatment and for limiting the use of electro-stun devices.

Discrimination

Ethnic and religious minorities, as well as LGBTI people, continued to experience discrimination.

In December, the Minister of the Interior presented a new draft code of ethics for security forces which, for the first time, regulated identity checks and body searches. In September, he had opposed the idea of officially registering all identity checks in order to combat racial profiling. Several human rights organizations continued to document identity checks based on ethnic profiling.

A law aimed at prohibiting the concealment of the face remained in force. Such laws indirectly discriminate against Muslim women freely choosing to wear full face veils. In January the Senate adopted a bill aimed at prohibiting employees in private childcare facilities from wearing religious and cultural symbols and dress. A circular issued by the former Ministry of Education in 2011 remained in force, which already banned women wearing such forms of dress from taking part in school outings.

In August, a law on sexual harassment introduced “sexual identity” as a prohibited ground in anti-hate crime law and in legislation aimed at combating discrimination in the workplace.

On 5 October, the Constitutional Council revoked several provisions of a 1969 law on Travellers. It removed the requirement to be registered in a municipality for three years to be able to vote and to carry and periodically renew a “circulation notebook” for Travellers without a regular income. However, those with a regular income were still obliged to carry a new “circulation booklet”; all Travellers still had to register with municipal authorities; and they were not allowed to constitute more than 3% of the town's population.

On 7 November, the Council of Ministers adopted a bill on same-sex marriage, which was due to be examined by the National Assembly from January 2013.

Forced evictions

Camps and makeshift homes inhabited by Roma continued to be dismantled in forced evictions throughout the year. According to NGO estimates, 9,040 Roma were forcibly evicted throughout France in the first three quarters of 2012.

On 26 August, the government issued an inter-ministerial circular containing discretionary guidelines for Prefects on how to plan and carry out evictions and support the people targeted by them. However, international safeguards against forced evictions continued to be flouted at a local level when implementing expulsion orders.

Refugees, asylum-seekers and migrants

The fast-track procedure for asylum-seekers remained in place, although it did not adequately protect their fundamental rights, and they continued to be denied a suspensive right of appeal before the National Asylum Court.

On 26 March, the Council of State quashed the April 2011 decision of the French Office for the Protection of Refugees and Stateless Persons (OFPRA) to add Albania and Kosovo to the list of safe countries of origin for asylum-seekers. On 3 October, the Council of State condemned OFPRA's lack of individual assessment in reviewing the applications of asylum-seekers whose fingerprints seemed to be voluntarily modified.

On 7 July, the government issued a circular which recommended that families of irregular migrants with children be placed under strict house arrest rather than in detention centres.

On 11 July, the UN Committee on Torture stopped the expulsion of a Somali woman detained in a “waiting zone” at Roissy Charles de Gaulle airport. Her asylum claim and appeal had been rejected within a week, although UNHCR, the Refugee Agency, opposes deportation to certain parts of Somalia.

In December, Parliament adopted a law amending the Code of Entry and Stay of Foreigners and the Asylum Law, which abolishes the so-called ‘'solidarity offence''. Under the law, supporting the irregular stay of a foreigner is no longer punishable with a fine or imprisonment, so long as the person providing the support receives no direct or indirect compensation.

Legal, constitutional or institutional developments

In December, France signed the Optional Protocol to the ICESCR.

Amnesty International visits/reports

  • Amnesty International delegates visited France in February, May, June, August, September and November.
  • Choice and prejudice: Discrimination against Muslims in Europe (EUR 01/001/2012)
  • The European Committee for the Prevention of Torture calls for “zero tolerance” of ill-treatment (EUR 21/005/2012)
  • Chased away: Forced evictions of Roma in the Ile-de-France (EUR 21/012/2012)