'De Facto Impunity' for French Police Unacceptable, Charges Amnesty International in New Report

For Immediate Release

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'De Facto Impunity' for French Police Unacceptable, Charges Amnesty International in New Report

Human Rights Organization Says Majority of Police Abuse Victims in France are Ethnic Minorities or Foreign Nationals

WASHINGTON - Unlawful killings, beatings, racial abuse
and excessive use of force by law enforcement officials are prohibited
under international law in all circumstances. Yet in France, reports of
such human rights violations are rarely investigated effectively and those
responsible seldom brought to justice, Amnesty International said in a
new report published today.

"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 Program at Amnesty International.

Amnesty International's report, Public
Outrage: police officers above the law in France
, condemns the fact
that allegations of police ill-treatment, racial abuse and excessive use
of force continue while procedures for investigating such allegations are
still failing to live up to the standards required by international law.
The human rights organization notes the increasing trend for people who
are the victims of or witnesses to ill-treatment by law enforcement officials
find themselves charged with the criminal offenses of insulting or assaulting
a police officer ("outrage" and "rebellion").

The numerous cases that Amnesty International
has researched in the course of preparing this report show that although
the victims of ill-treatment and other human rights violations include
men and women of all age groups, 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," 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 in impartial and independent
proceedings. This is also essential in order to uphold the reputation of
the majority of law enforcement officials who fulfill their duties professionally
and lawfully."

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.

"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 favor. Victims, many of whom are French citizens from an ethnic minority
or foreign nationals, are all too often left without justice," Diaz-Jogeix
said.

Amnesty International continues to call 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," Diaz-Jogeix said.

Background

Amnesty International has long-standing 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 organization published the report, France: The search for
justice
, which examined allegations of serious human rights violations
by law enforcement officials going back to 1991.  

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We are people from across the world standing up for humanity and human rights. Our purpose is to protect people wherever justice, freedom, truth and dignity are denied. We investigate and expose abuses, educate and mobilize the public, and help transform societies to create a safer, more just world.

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