Europe Écologie Les Verts (EELV), France’s main green party and environmental European presence, rallies behind the Class action Lawsuit that aims at addressing systemic racism against ethnic minorities through specific reforms
The class action lawsuit is the first of its kind in France’s history. Presented by 6 different NGO
’s, including Human Rights Watch, the lawsuit points to police practices that need change, specifically ethnic profiling through illegitimate stop-and-frisk actions.
In a recent publication, EELV backs this movement and asks for “an end to discriminatory identity verifications by the police force” as well as an independent body that can audit these practices.
Directly quoting the “Défenseur des droits”, an independent body that seeks to fight inequality and discrimination in France, the EELV mentions the astounding figure that “young men perceived to be of black or middle eastern descent, are 20 times more likely to be stopped than the rest of the population”.
“It is unworthy of our Republic and a profound questioning of equality IN THE EYES OF justice.”– Eva Sas and Alain Coulombel, EELV’s spokepersons
The documented abuse goes further. Open Society Justice
iInitiative, one of the 6 NGO ’s putting forward this motion, has been fighting against this type of systemic discrimination for over 15 years. In a study they conducted in 2009, they discovered that Black people “were between 3.3 and 11.5 times more likely than whites to be stopped; while Arabs were stopped between 1.8 and 14.8 more times than whites.”
On their side, Human Rights Watch have discovered that children as young as 12 years old are subject to being stopped by police officers in France. In their view, this creates a culture of humiliation and damages the children’s self-esteem in the long-run. Consequently, they perceive the police force as an abusive organ of society rather than a protective agency that has the citizens’ security in their best interest.
The lawyers presenting the case are clear in their statement: They do not believe that any individual police officer is racist, but rather that there’s a culture of systemic racism enforced and fostered by illegitimate practices such as stop-and-frisks.
The lawsuit presents multiple venues of revision and reform that France’s leaders can act upon. While an independent body to revise the discriminating practices of stop-and-frisks is one of the top priorities, the proposition also includes:
- introducing amendments to the criminal code to explicitly ban identity checks based on reasons other than objective and individualized suspicion, for instance, origins, physical appearance, or race;
- implementing specific regulations and instructions for police stops of children;
- creating a system to record and evaluate data on identity checks, and to provide those stopped by police with a record of the interaction;
- creating an effective and independent complaints mechanism;
- modifying police mission statements, orders, and training, namely regarding interactions with the public.
The lawyers presenting this motion believe that following these steps will kickstart cultural change within the police force and ensure that that independent mechanism will make the police force accountable.
France’s Security Bill and “Beauvau de la Sécurité”
This class-action lawsuit is presented to France’s Prime Minister and the Minister of Interior affairs amidst a lively discussion of France’s “Beauvau de la Sécurité”, a period of open consultation to revise the country’s security policy as a whole.
Emmanuel Macron declared the start of these roundtables back in December to appease social unrest due to a controversial security bill and repeated cases of police brutality.
The 24th article of the global security bill proposed back in November would outlaw the filming of police officers. In the government’s view, this would protect officers from online harassment
s because they do not have any security when it comes to their image rights. This part of the bill sparked outrage due to its lack of transparency and its potential to protect any wrongdoing. Reported by the BBC around the same period, the video of Michel Zecler, a black music producer, getting beat by four white police officers in his own studio ignited over 100 protests to demand justice and a revision of the proposed security bill.
Within this political panorama, the “Beauvau de la Sécurité” is France’s effort to revise its security policy in the most transparent way possible and allow effective reform to take place.