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French police face court action over racist ID check allegations

Reuters/Charles Platiau

Fifteen French citizens are taking the government to court over alleged racist policing. They all claim to have been stopped by police purely because of the colour of their skin.


“The environment is stifling for these people and that’s why they are holding the state responsible, so that it can compensate them for the injustice they have suffered and so that the state acknowledges the problem and racist identity checks stop,” one of their lawyers, Slim Ben Achour said.

The plaintiffs are all either black or Arab and are aged between 17 and 25.

They say that their fundamental rights have been violated, pointed out that identity checks can only be conducted on the basis of behaviour not appearance.

"This is a positive action in that the victims have appropriated their suffering, their destiny, in deciding to take the state to court," Achour told RFI.

A left-wing lawyers’ union is backing the move and calling for the police to be required to give a written record of checks.

A study by the CNRS research institute carried out between October 2007 and May 2008 showed that black people were six times more likely to be stopped by police than whites and people of Arabic appearance eight times more likely.

When US-based Human Rights Watch criticised French policing last January the police force denied the charge of racism and insisted that any illegal behaviour by officers was punished.

The case is likely to make it to court within one or two years.

Socialist presidential candidate François Hollande has promised to issue an order to police to stop identity controls based on racial appearance within a few weeks of taking office.

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