Six civil society organizations threaten to sue the French government because French police are systematically guilty of racial profiling when examining identity documents.
It is said that black French and French people of North African descent are the victims. The organizations say they are left insulted and frustrated by the illegal searches. Officers accused of racial profiling go unpunished.
The six organizations, including Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch, sent a letter to Prime Minister Castex and the Ministers of Interior and Justice calling for reforms in the near future. Its purpose is to prevent anyone from having to show their ID card just because it appears.
Appealing to the government is a necessary step to be able to go to court at a later time. This is possible if, in the plaintiffs’ opinion, the government did not do enough in four months to satisfy them. Prosecutors use a law introduced in 2016 that allows joint charges to be brought in discrimination cases.
“This is a revolutionary step,” said one of the lawyers representing the six groups. “We stand for hundreds, thousands, or even a million people.”
Testimonials – recommendations
He and his team collected fifty testimonies from victims and officers from all over France, including the testimony of an anonymous person who had to show their identity several times a day for years.
One woman said she was harassed by clients multiple times a day since she was 16. On one of those occasions she would have been pressed against a wall. “One of the officers touched my genitals, then hit me on the stomach and told me, ‘Dirty Arab.’
A policeman who lives in a deprived area told the AP that he was often stopped by his colleagues when he went down the street in civilian clothes. He said, “If I’m not wearing a uniform, I’m a person of color to them.” According to him, in 80 percent of cases, agents check identity documents because of someone’s appearance, without a legal basis.
Victims of racial profiling often live in disadvantaged neighborhoods. Police spokespeople say that officers often feel insecure there. They are often pelted with fireworks and objects.
Twenty times more likely
Human Rights Watch published a report last year on the abuse of power and discrimination by the French police. “Young people with a black or North African appearance are often arrested in order to verify their identity, especially in some deprived neighborhoods,” the director of the French branch of the human rights organization said.
The French Ombudsman published a study a few years ago that showed young blacks or North Africans are 20 times more likely to be stopped by the police than by other French.