Submitted to the UN Human Rights Committee in advance of its Review of France June 2015

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Human Rights Watch Concerns and Recommendations on France

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france veil

Paris, 18.06.2015 (HRW) – Human Rights Watch welcomes the upcoming review of France by the Human Rights Committee. This briefing provides an overview of our main concerns with regard to France’s compliance with the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR). We hope it will inform the Committee’s review of France.

Abuses by law enforcement officials against migrants and asylum-seekers (article 7, paragraph 8 in the list of issues)

In November and December 2014, Human Rights Watch documented abuses by French police against migrants and asylum-seekers in the port city of Calais, in breach of the prohibition of torture or other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment under article 7.The abuses described to Human Rights Watch included beatings and attacks with pepper spray as migrants and asylum seekers walked in the streets or hid in trucks in the hope of traveling to the United Kingdom. In response to these findings, French government officials either denied that such abuse took place, or claimed they did not have enough evidence to conduct investigations.

On May 11, 2015, members of the local group Calais Migrant Solidarity posted a video filmed on May 5 that appears to show officers of the French riot police (Compagnies Républicaines de Sécurité, CRS) pushing, kicking and beating migrants who tried to hide in trucks while they seemed to pose no threat, and spraying pepper spray in their direction even as the migrants were leaving the road. On May 12, the Directorate of the National Police (Direction générale de la police nationale, DGPN) announced that it had seized the national police’s internal inspectorate (Inspection générale de la police nationale, IGPN) of the matter, as did the public prosecutor of Boulogne-sur-mer. The Defender of Rights also seized himself of the case.

(For more information, please see http://www.hrw.org/news/2015/01/20/france-migrants-asylum-seekers-abused-and-destitute).

The Committee should urge France to immediately investigate allegations of abuse by law enforcement officials in Calais against migrants and asylum seekers in Calais. The French government should send clear instructions to law enforcement officials working in Calais that they should only use force as a last resort, and only when strictly necessary and proportionate to achieving a legitimate aim, such as protecting their safety or the safety of others.

International justice (articles 6 and 7, paragraph 9 in the list of issues)

French courts have universal jurisdiction over grave international crimes committed abroad where neither the victim nor the perpetrator is a French national, but Article 689-11 of the French Code of criminal procedure places limits on jurisdiction for certain crimes including genocide, crimes against humanity, and war crimes.[i]Parliamentarians presented a legislative proposal to harmonize the jurisdictional requirements for all grave international crimes in September 2012, but the bill has stalled.

If adopted, the bill would give French courts jurisdiction to pursue grave international crimes committed abroad when a suspect is present on French soil (as opposed to resident), without requiring the crime to be punishable in the place where it occurred at the time of commission (double criminality), and without giving priority to the courts of the country where the crime occurred or international criminal tribunals (subsidiarity).[ii]  In addition, victims could file civil party complaints directly with investigative judges, ensuring that a judicial investigation is opened and not left to the discretion of prosecutors.[iii] The reinstatement of the civil party procedure has been the most controversial part of the bill.

In February 2013, the senate adopted an amended version of the bill dropping three of the requirements but maintaining the gatekeeping function of prosecutors.[iv] The bill was sent to the National Assembly for consideration but never went to a vote, due initially to a reshuffling of the government but more recently to what appeared to be a lack of political will.[v]

A diplomatic row with Morocco in February 2014 over cases filed in France alleging torture by Moroccan security service agents resulted in the suspension of all judicial cooperation by Morocco. In April 2015, the French government proposed a bill aimed at divesting French courts of jurisdiction in cases where the crimes are alleged to have been committed in Morocco by a Moroccan national (regardless of whether the victims are French nationals).[vi] The bill was under consideration by the French parliament at the time of writing.

France should make passage of the 2012 legislative proposal, including reinstatement of the civil party procedure, a priority. Parliament should also reject the draft bill to amend its legal assistance agreement with Morocco on the grounds it would seriously restrict access to justice for victims of grave human rights violations and potentially breach its international legal obligations.

French human rights violations persist in following fields:

  • Counterterrorism law of November 2014 (articles 12, 14, 15 and 19) (…)
  • Situation of unaccompanied migrant children in transit zones (Articles 9, 10, 13, 24, 26) (…)
  • Limited access to a lawyer in pre-charge detention (Article 14, paragraph 2 in the list of issues) (…)
  • Surveillance and the right to privacy (Article 17) (…)
  • Discriminatory restrictions on religious symbols (Articles 18 and 26, paragraph 26 in the list of issues) (…)
  • Discrimination against Roma (Articles 2 and 26, paragraph 5 in the list of issues) (…)
  • Abusive Identity Checks (Article 26, paragraph 27 in the list of issues) (…)

See full article here. Source: Human Rights Watch (18.06.2015).


[i] On August 9, 2010, the French Code of Criminal Procedure was amended to incorporate the Rome Statute and extend the jurisdiction of French courts to include genocide, crimes against humanity, and war crimes committed after that date. Loi n° 2010-930 du 9 août 2010 portant adaptation du droit pénal à l’institution de la Cour pénale internationale, No. 2010-930, entered into force on August 11, 2010,http://www.legifrance.gouv.fr/affichTexte.do;jsessionid=DA7956739FD101F26E23CD144B032676.tpdjo02v_1?cidTexte=JORFTEXT000022681235

[ii] For more information on these requirements, see Human Rights Watch, The Legal Framework for Universal Jurisdiction in France, September 17, 2015, pp. 2-7,http://www.hrw.org/sites/default/files/related_material/IJ0914France.pdf

[iii] Proposition de loi tendant à modifier l’article 689-11 du Code de Procédure Pénale relatif à la compétence territoriale du juge français concernant les infractions visées par le statut de la Cour pénale internationale, French Senate, September 6, 2012, http://www.senat.fr/leg/ppl11-753.html.

[iv] The civil party procedure would remain intact for torture, enforced disappearance, and crimes committed in the former Yugoslavia and Rwanda. Proposition de loi adoptée, n° 191, French senate, February 26, 2013,http://www.senat.fr/leg/tas12-101.html. During the parliamentary debate discussing the proposal, Minister of Justice, Christiane Taubira, noted diplomatic problems faced by other countries as a result of universal jurisdiction cases but expressed support for reinstating the civil party procedure. Senate debate, French senate, February 26, 2013, http://www.senat.fr/seances/s201302/s20130226/s20130226004.html

[v] The first step toward consideration by the National Assembly would have been for the National Law Commission to appoint a representative to study the proposal, which never happened.

[vi] Questions/Réponses: Projet de Protocole additionnel à la Convention d’entraide judiciaire en matière pénale entre la France et le Maroc, Human Rights Watch, Amnesty International, Federation Internationale des Ligues des Droits de l’Homme (FIDH), Ligue des droits de l’Homme, 27 avril 2015,http://www.hrw.org/fr/news/2015/04/27/francemaroc-votez-non-l-accord-d-entraide-judiciaire-entre-la-france-et-le-maroc

 

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