FRANCE

Teenagers sue Paris police for sexual, racial harassement

Police clear school students from Paris's Champs Elysées after a demonstration
Police clear school students from Paris's Champs Elysées after a demonstration Reuters/Charles Platiau

Eighteen French teenagers are suing police in a Paris district for systematic racist and sexual harassment over a period of two years in a rare case of young people taking on the authorities in court. The school students, aged between 14 and 18 years old, claim to have been forced to strip, subjected to anal searches, teargased and racially insulted between summer 2013 and summer 2015.

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The legal complaint against a local police unit, the BSQ, in Paris's 12th arrondissement is backed by the Open Society Justice Initiative, part of financier George Soros's US-based Open Society Initiative.

It alleges cases of "aggravated violence", "aggravated sexual assault", "discrimination", "sequestration" and "abuse of authority" against the teenagers, most of whom attend a school near Paris's Gare de Lyon railway station.

Young people of immigrant origin living in the area can expected to be stopped by police at least once a day, they claim.

They accuse the BSQ, nicknamed "The Tigers", of regularly harassing young people of both sexes and accuse them of:

  • Racial abuse, for example calling youths "monkeys", "shitty Lebanese" and "dirty blacks";
  • Frequent body searches, involving orders to strip naked and fingers inserted in the anus;
  • Physical assault, including blows to the face, ribs and back and teargas grenades let off in the face.

Teaching staff tried to mediate with the police and complained to the local council, according to lawyer Slim Ben Achour, but the efforts failed to satisfy the teenagers or their families.

The local council says it has been notified of tension between young people and police but not of cases as serious as those cited in the legal case.

A police internal inquiry has been initiated.

A study commissioned by the Open Society Justice Initiative in 2007-2008 found that a black person is six times more likely to be stopped by police in France than a white person and a person of north African origin 7.8 times more likely.

More than half of those stopped were wearing clothes associated with youth culture.

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