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France court seeks high court ruling on constitutionality of police custody

[JURIST] The Paris Criminal Court on Monday asked the highest court of appeal, the Court of Cassation [official website, in French], to determine the constitutionality of police custody under article 63-4 [text] of the code of criminal procedure. The request [Nouvelobs report, in French] follows Monday's entry into force of a constitutional amendment [Agenda report] allowing individuals indirectly to seek review before the French Constitutional Council [official website, in French] by appealing to the highest courts of the country. The Court of Cassation will have three months to decide whether the question should be submitted to the Constitutional Council. The application was initiated by an association of Paris bar lawyers [website, in French], which has called for lawyers around France to follow its lead in order to pressure the government to reform the criminal procedure. French Justice Minister Michele Alliot-Marie [official profile, in French] will present a reform project [Nouvelobs report, in French] to the unions representing judges and lawyers on Tuesday.

The campaign for reform [advocacy website, in French] has gained momentum over the past few months as a result of recent decisions by the European Court of Human Rights [official website] in Salduz v. Turkey, Mooren v. Germany, Koslenik v. Ukraine [judgments], which called a lack of safeguards during police custody a violation of article 6 of the European Convention on Human Rights [text, PDF]. French lawyers and human rights groups have demanded that all suspects in police custody be given the right to see a lawyer immediately and access to a lawyer during interrogation, as well as be informed of their right to remain silent.

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