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France: Recommendations on Justice Reform Fall Short

WASHINGTON - The Léger Committee, an ad hoc government committee tasked with formulating far-reaching recommendations to improve France's criminal justice system, released its final report on September 1, 2009. The government is expected to use the recommendations as the basis for legislation to reform France's Code of Criminal Procedure and the Criminal Code.  The Committee failed to endorse reforms that would significantly improve due process rights guaranteed under human rights law.

"The Léger Committee says its proposed reforms would create a ‘habeas corpus à la française,'" said Judith Sunderland, senior researcher with the Europe and Central Asia Division.  "But they are actually half-measures that don't satisfy France's obligations under international law."

In April, Human Rights Watch submitted detailed recommendations to the committee, named after its president, Philippe Léger, based on in-depth research and analysis of France's criminal justice approach to countering terrorism. The Human Rights Watch recommendations include:

  • Strengthening safeguards against due process violations and abuse during police custody;
  • Preventing lengthy pre-trial detention without sufficient evidence;
  • Guaranteeing that torture evidence is never used in legal proceedings; and
  • Amending the definition of criminal association to commit terrorism.

"The French government will need to look beyond the Leger Committee if it is committed to real criminal justice reform," said Sunderland. "We hope that the government will take our recommendations into account as it moves forward."


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