Six French and international associations announced, this Thursday, seize the Council of State, in order to obtain measures against the controls considered to be discriminatory. Their request is based on numerous testimonies, including those of six police officers.
In January 2021, French and international associations launched the first group action carried out in France against checks deemed discriminatory, more commonly known as “facies checks”. The Prime Minister, as well as the Ministers of the Interior and of Justice had four months to respond to this formal notice. Faced with the “silence” of the government, the organizations therefore decided to seize the Council of State, an action which they describe as “historic.“.
Whether it is the “Community House for Solidarity Development” (MCDS), Pazapas, the “Equality, Antidiscrimination, Interdisciplinary Justice Network” (Reaji), Amnesty International France, Human Rights Watch or the Open Society Justice Initiative: all these associations, for the way of the lawyer Antoine Lyon-Caen, ask the Council of State to “note the serious failure of the State to allow the generalized practice of facies checks to continue“.
The applicants especially wish that the court obliges the authorities to take a series of measures in order to put an end to the controls considered to be discriminatory. They claim, among other things, stricter supervision of identity checks, so that they “are based only on an objective and individualized suspicion“, they explain in a common text. The associations also ask that the persons checked be given a proof of these identity checks, as well as the creation of a specific complaint mechanism to challenge controls deemed to be abusive. The applicants also plead for better training of future police officers, in particular as regards interactions with the population.
This action comes as the state was convicted, on appeal, on June 8, 2021 for “gross misconduct”, in the case of three high school students who believe they were victims of discriminatory controls, in 2017, Gare du Nord, in Paris .
The 220-page request contains numerous testimonies from people who say they undergo these checks, but also six police officers who claim to observe abuses on the part of some of their colleagues. “These police officers testify precisely so that things change “, explains Sabine Gagnier, head of the “population protection” program at Amnesty International France. “They have a certain vision of police practice and have themselves, sometimes, tried to bring things up through different means. Some felt that for the moment, things had not changed with their simple internal speech and therefore live as whistleblowers“.
One of them, peacekeeper in the Paris region, himself of African origin, judge, at the microphone of France Inter, that “one cannot refute the existence of racism“, while specifying that it is”not generalized“. “But some acts are to be taken seriously and I think we must do everything to remedy them“, he continues. “This is what harms the institution the most, what hurts us in our relations between the police and the population“.
“A person who could have committed an offense”
Explains to him that he chose this profession by “patriotism“, “to commit to France“, and said to regret certain facts which he claims to be a witness.
The simple fact that a person speaks a foreign language, that one finds oneself near an embassy, can motivate a control.
“At that point, we say to ourselves that, at any street corner, we can find a legal ground for these practices which are discriminatory.“, details the peacekeeper who calls for a better supervision of the practice.
All the more so since these controls which, in his eyes, harm relations with the population, can also slow down the fight against delinquency by leading certain colleagues to neglect potential suspects: “We confine ourselves to saying that living in the suburbs, having a ghettoization, will encourage the commission of offenses. This is where we go wrong: when we are truly a peacekeeper and want to make a deal [mettre la main sur un délinquant, ndlr], generally, we control anyone and it is at this moment that we realize that the Mr. Everybody dressed in a suit, a tie with his small suitcase, is perhaps a trafficker of narcotics and may have some cocaine in their kit“.
The police officer, who arrived in Île-de-France ten years ago after having worked in another region, explains that he especially noted the existence of these controls deemed discriminatory in the Paris region. It is also by getting closer to the capital that he says he also had to undergo this type of discriminatory control. : “As soon as I no longer had my uniform, I was potentially a person who could have committed an offense when the reality is quite different.“. All from someone who”if you had a uniform, would call you ‘colleague’“, deplores the official.