World, Europe

Rights groups file case against France to end racial profiling

Amnesty International France, other groups petition French court over government failure to end discriminatory practice

Shweta Desai   | 23.07.2021
Rights groups file case against France to end racial profiling

PARIS 

Rights groups on Thursday filed suit in France’s highest administrative court to force the police to put an end to the discriminatory practice of identity checks based on racial profiling targeting Blacks and Arabs.

Amnesty International France, along with several other groups including the Community House for Solidarity Development, Equality Network, Antidiscrimination, Human Rights Watch, and Open Society Justice Initiative, filed a case with the Council of State over what they called the government’s serious failure to end the systematic practice of facial checks and to put an end to the “stigmatizing, humiliating and degrading practice.”

It recommended ending the practice of administrative identity checks and urged the creation of an independent and effective complaints mechanism and training on public interactions to better sensitize police.

Amnesty said it collected testimonies from victims and police officers confirming racial profiling based on ethnicity and physical appearance disproportionately targeting Black and Arab young men – some as young as 12. However, repeated appeals by European and UN authorities on the issue for more than 10 years failed to elicit a concrete response from the French government, it added in a statement.

"The facial identity checks concern society as a whole. They have devastating effects because they propagate racism and discriminatory biases," lawyer Slim bin Achour told a press conference.

In a June report decrying security forces’ “excessive use of force and other human rights violations” against Africans and people of African descent, the UN high commissioner for human rights flagged France for the facial identity checks.

Last year France and French leaders came under fire for moves against the country’s minority Muslim population such as accusing it of “separatism” and closing down 73 mosques, private schools, and workplaces due to “the fight against radical Islamism.”

Last year, two police officers arrested for the violent assault of Black music producer Zecler were given conditional release, even after outrage over racial injustice and police violence.

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