Anti-racism challenge to French police database

20th October 2009, Comments 0 comments

Anti-racism campaigners said on Monday they would file suit before a top French court over a new police database that would log details on their citizens' "geographic origin."

President Nicolas Sarkozy's government on Sunday announced the creation of a database aimed at preventing gang violence and hooliganism and another to log details of applicants for sensitive jobs, from airports to nuclear plants.

Created by government decree, the police files are to replace a contested database that was scrapped last year after outrage over plans to collate data on citizens' political views, sexual preferences and ethnic origin.

But SOS Racism said it would challenge the new anti-crime database this week before the State Council, France's highest administrative court, arguing that to log a person's place of origin would still amount to racial profiling.

It said the "vague" notion of geographic origin could be used to "stigmatise people based on their presumed origin."

An interior ministry memo on the databases sent to regional state officials, seen by AFP, explained that police need to be able to connect individuals by place of birth or country of origin, saying common roots could be a determining factor in gang activities.

But opposition lawmaker Manuel Valls accused the government of "sneaking" the sensitive new database through without a public debate, calling for its immediate withdrawal.

He was joined by the ruling party deputy Jacques-Alain Benisti, who accused the government of short-circuiting parliament by adopting the files by decree.

France's Human Rights League and the MRAP anti-racism group have called for mass protests to demand the databases be scrapped.


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