Report to slam France's human rights record

13th February 2006, Comments 0 comments

PARIS, Feb 11, 2006 (AFP) - There is a yawning gap between what France preaches and what it practices when it comes to human rights, according to a major Council of Europe report to be released this week.

PARIS, Feb 11, 2006 (AFP) - There is a yawning gap between what France preaches and what it practices when it comes to human rights, according to a major Council of Europe report to be released this week.

The 200-page indictment — which details shortcomings ranging from chronically overpopulated prisons to police brutality to summary expulsions of asylum seekers — is especially embarrassing to a nation that takes pride in its image and history as a beacon of human rights.

"There is a widening gap in several areas between the text of the law and what is actually practiced," Human Rights Commissioner Alvaro Gil-Robles said in the report, to be released Wednesday.

France "has a relatively complete legal arsenal offering a high level of human rights protection," Gil-Robles said, but "does not always give itself sufficient means to put it into application."

The report refers to "persistent and recurring difficulties" related to human rights as illustrated by the number of cases brought in recent years before the European Court of Human Rights.

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

Noting a growing number of racist incidents, Gil-Robles regretted that relevant "laws were so rarely and weakly applied," resulting in a pervasive uneasiness among the targeted groups.

The report is especially critical of lapses in the treatment of delinquent minors. While lauding the recent creation of enclosed educational centres, he deplored the continuing incarceration of minors together with adult-prison populations.

As of February 1, there were more than 700 minors in France's regular prisons, the report said.

Gil-Robles called in particular on France to "show a proof of humanity" in regards to foreign minors who must, he said, be considered as "children at risk."

Among the other lapses cited in the report are insufficient legal defence for suspects held for questioning, a reduction in public funding of human-rights-oriented non-governmental organizations (NGOs), and a "hardening of immigration policies that risk violating the rights of genuine asylum seekers."

He cited the example of two would-be asylum seekers from Congo who were severely injured when they jumped from the portal of a cargo freighter after not being allowed to come to shore.

The report offered 50 specific recommendations to French authorities to improve their record, including the shortening of the maximum allowed 45-day solitary confinement, the separation of convicts and persons awaiting trial, and faster and more effective access to legal assistance for detainees.

It also called on France to fight against all forms of police brutality and violence.

Copyright AFP

Subject: French news

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