Justice fails French police brutality victims: Amnesty

6th April 2005, Comments 0 comments

PARIS, April 6 (AFP) - French government ministers, judges and senior police officers allow policemen to use excessive and sometimes lethal force against suspects of Arab and African origin without fear of serious repercussions, rights group Amnesty International charged Wednesday.

PARIS, April 6 (AFP) - French government ministers, judges and senior police officers allow policemen to use excessive and sometimes lethal force against suspects of Arab and African origin without fear of serious repercussions, rights group Amnesty International charged Wednesday.

Amnesty said it had uncovered evidence of widespread failure of the judicial system to prosecute and punish human rights violations by police, including a "two-speed justice" prosecuting cases brought by officers far more quickly than those brought by their victims.

A large number of cases never reach the courtroom, and in those that do, convictions are rare and sentences often nominal, it said.

"This pattern of impunity contributes to a lack of public confidence that law enforcement officials operate under the rule of law and are held accountable for their actions," Amnesty added.

"In our view, there is effective impunity for police officers committing human rights violations - we have identified a widespread failure of the judicial system to effectively investigate, prosecute and punish human rights violations in law enforcement affairs," Amnesty's Nicola Duckworth said.

While the number of fatal shootings by police officers or paramilitary gendarmes has declined in recent years, complaints of ill-treatment have increased, rising 18.5 percent in 2004.

Amnesty alleged continuing lack of respect for internal guidelines or codes of conduct, as well as for international norms, by French authorities.

"Among the concerns are the reluctance of public prosecutors to pursue cases against police officers, mistreatment and lack of safeguards in police custody, unnecessarily lengthy delays in judicial proceedings, and the lack of a full definition of torture in the penal code," it said.

The organisation called for authorities to set up an independent mechanism to investigate all allegations of serious human rights violations, bring those responsible to justice after prompt and thorough investigations, ensure all detainees are granted access to a lawyer from the outset of police custody, and ensure that the victims receive redress.

"The prevention of torture and ill-treatment is primarily a matter of political will," Duckworth said. "There must be full accountability for everyone involved no matter what their rank."

The main police union, Alliance, hit back swiftly, with general secretary Jean-Luc Garnier calling it "ridiculous."

"It is shameful and I am scandalised," Garnier told AFP, saying that it "strengthens the impunity of offenders."

Garnier said that disciplinary bodies worked well and effectively, adding that it should not be forgotten that 9,000 policemen had been wounded on active service last year.

© AFP

Subject: French News

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