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France minorities file racial profiling lawsuit

A group of minorities in France has filed a lawsuit alleging police searches are conducted on the basis of racial profiling, according to a statement made by their lawyers and the Open Society Justice Initiative (OSJI) [advocacy website] on Wednesday. The suit was filed (OSJI press release) in the Tribunal de Grande Instance de Paris [official website, in French] and alleges that French police unfairly single out minority race individuals for searches and identification checks. A French coalition against racial profiling and Syndicat des Avocats de France (SAF), the French lawyers union, have also backed the lawsuit. Article 78-2 of the Code of Criminal Procedure in France authorizes police to request identification from any person without cause. That provision, according to OSJI, "open[s] the door for discriminatory and arbitrary application of the law." This is the first case in France alleging widespread racial profiling in government conduct.

France has faced criticism for racial inequality and discrimination in the past. In August 2010, the UN Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination [official website] concluded its review [JURIST report] of France's compliance with the International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination (CERD) [text], holding that while France has a laudable action plan for eradicating racial discrimination, it must increase efforts to make the plan a reality. In July of that year, French President Nicolas Sarkozy ordered measures [JURIST report] against illegal Roma communities in France and announced new legislation aimed at making their deportation easier. Earlier that month, the French National Assembly [official website, in French] approved a bill [JURIST report] that would make it illegal to wear the Islamic burqa [JURIST news archive] or other full face veils in public. Amnesty International (AI) [advocacy website] criticized the law [press release] saying it "would violate the rights to freedom of expression and religion" of women who choose to wear veils.

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