Jan 27, 2021 15:12 UTC
  • French government on legal notice over police racial discrimination

Several prominent rights organizations have filed a class-action lawsuit against the French government over racial and discriminatory actions by police, which have recently sparked angry protests across France.

Six nongovernmental organizations (NGOs), including Human Rights Watch (HRW) and Amnesty International, charged the French President Emmanuel Macron and his cabinet with neglecting their duties to end police’s discriminatory identity checks.

Lawyers representing the group said the French police used racial profiling in carrying out identity checks, targeting Black people and other minorities.

Macron has acknowledged in an interview that, “Today, when your skin color is not white, you’re checked more often.”

The collective lawsuit, which is filed on behalf of brown and Black people, is the first such action that targets the French government in relation to policing.

“It’s revolutionary, because we’re going to speak for hundreds of thousands, even a million people,” said one of the lawyers, Slim Ben Achour.

The two-stage lawsuit process gives the French authorities four months to talk with the NGOs about meeting their demands, according to Ben Achour.

If the parties behind the lawsuit are left unsatisfied after that time, he said, the case will go to court.

Despite several independent reports and a series of recent scandals exposing discriminatory police practices in France, Macron’s government has taken no steps to address the issue.

Instead, his government introduced a security bill late last year that would restrict sharing images of on-duty police officers. Under that bill, offenders could be jailed for up to a year and fined 45,000 euros (53,000 dollars) for sharing images of police officers.

The draft law, which will be examined by the Senate in March, has sparked widespread protests across France.

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