Human rights report 'unfair': justice minister

16th February 2006, Comments 0 comments

PARIS, Feb 15, 2006 (AFP) - The French justice minister on Wednesday said a Council of Europe report criticising France's human rights record was unfair, while rights groups, magistrates and prison unions hailed its recommendations.

PARIS, Feb 15, 2006 (AFP) - The French justice minister on Wednesday said a Council of Europe report criticising France's human rights record was unfair, while rights groups, magistrates and prison unions hailed its recommendations.

The 200-page document released Wednesday details shortcomings ranging from chronically overpopulated prisons to police brutality and summary expulsions of asylum seekers.

The document contained indisputable facts but also erroneous statements, Justice Minister Pascal Clement told a news conference.

An annex published with the report contained a response from the French government. It disputed details of the report and said recent laws would improve the situation.

The left-wing SM magistrates' union said the government's response was "unworthy of a state of law".

"The French authorities need to respect their responsibilities," the union said.

Based on the inspection in September 2005 of seven prisons and five police precincts, the report lambastes France's weak reaction to anti-Semitic and racist crimes, and the discriminatory treatment of Roma citizens.

The report is especially critical of lapses in the treatment of delinquent minors and of poor prison conditions.

Clement said the report did not reflect efforts to modernise prisons by previous governments.

"To be fair to France, you have to remember what we have done since 2002," Clement said, highlighting a programme to create 13,000 extra prison places introduced four years ago.

Prisons unions said the report was a cause for "shame" to France.

"The catastrophic analysis of prisons suffering from overpopulation and a lack of means is unworthy of France," said Jean-François Forget from the UFAP union. He said the report could have been even more critical of staff shortages.

The report also cites insufficient legal defence for suspects held for questioning and a "hardening of immigration policies that risk violating the rights of genuine asylum seekers."

French rights groups called on the government to follow the report's 50 specific recommendations.

Anafe, an association of rights groups aiding foreigners, said the report was "the third condemnation from an international authority against the French state for practices affecting foreigners."

Copyright AFP

Subject: French news

0 Comments To This Article