Europe rights court criticises France for police brutality

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Europe's rights court on Thursday criticised France for being too soft on police brutality in a case involving a teenager who suffered physical abuse at a police station.

Yassine Darraj, who was 16 at the time of the incident in 2001, sustained serious injuries including a fractured testicle after being taken to a police station outside Paris for an identity check.

A domestic court in 2004 sentenced two police officers to suspended terms of four and eight months for assault, but their responsibility was mitigated in an appeal to a lesser offence of involuntary wounding and they were fined 800 euros (1,120 dollars).

The applicant's subsequent request for legal aid was rejected due to lack of any serious ground to appeal.

In its ruling, the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) said that Darraj had been treated in such a way as to arouse feelings of fear, anguish and inferiority capable of humiliating and debasing him and possibly breaking his physical and moral resistance.

"Such treatment had thus been unhuman and degrading," the court said.

The court described the punishment meted out to the two officers as minimal and with little deterrent effect.

The court "had to intervene in cases of manifest disproportion between the seriousness of the act and the punishment in question," the ruling said.

France was ordered to pay Darraj 15,000 euros in damages and 4,000 euros in expenses.

© 2010 AFP

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