French police use broad powers to conduct abusive identity checks on black and Arab young men and boys despite the absence of any evidence of wrongdoing, Human Rights Watch said on Thursday.

"/> French police use broad powers to conduct abusive identity checks on black and Arab young men and boys despite the absence of any evidence of wrongdoing, Human Rights Watch said on Thursday.

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POLICE

Police treatment of minorities ‘shocking’: report

French police use broad powers to conduct abusive identity checks on black and Arab young men and boys despite the absence of any evidence of wrongdoing, Human Rights Watch said on Thursday.

Police treatment of minorities 'shocking': report
Angelo DeSantis

A police spokesman denounced the HRW report as a “caricature” of the force.

HRW warned in its report that unwarranted checks and intimate searches, on top of police insults, were damaging police-community relations.

“It’s shocking that young black and Arab kids can be, and are, arbitrarily forced up against walls and manhandled by the police with no real evidence of wrongdoing,” said HRW western Europe researcher Judith Sunderland.

“But if you are a young person in some neighbourhoods in France, it’s a part of life.”

Tension between the police and the community contributed to widespread rioting in French suburbs in 2005.

HRW criticised the fact that the searches were not recorded by police and that officers did not give any explanation to those people they searched.

Police increasingly touched youths’ private parts during humiliating pat-downs, according to testimony collected by HRW: they could also slap, kick or use electroshock weapons against suspects during arbitrary searches.

If a youth asked why he was being searched, he could be charged with “insulting an officer”, a very broad charge under French law, inhibiting people from asserting their rights, HRW said.

Police called children as young as 13 “dirty negro”, HRW said.

It also quoted a youth in the northern city of Lille who said he had been called “dirty Arab” so many times “it doesn’t shock us anymore — it’s normal.”

The testimony “adds to statistical and anecdotal evidence indicating that police in France use ethnic profiling — making decisions about whom to stop based on appearance, including race and ethnicity,” HRW said.

“Frankly, police-community relations in France are dismal, and everyone knows it,” Sunderland said.

“Taking concrete steps to prevent abusive identity checks — one of the main sources of tension — would be a real step forward and would make a genuine difference in people’s daily lives.”

A national police spokesman denounced the report as unfair.

“This report, which clearly cannot be considered scientific, presents a caricature of the national police,” said spokesman Pascal Garibian.

“It is even quite shocking when it makes reference to ethnic profiling.”

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POLICE

Two mountaineers killed and 9 injured in ice fall in Swiss mountains

A Frenchwoman and a Spaniard were killed and nine other mountaineers were injured on Friday in an ice fall in southwest Switzerland, police said following a rescue attempt involving several helicopters.

Two mountaineers killed and 9 injured in ice fall in Swiss mountains

Police received calls at 6.20 am reporting that mountaineers had been caught up in falling seracs — columns of glacial ice formed by crevasses — on the Grand Combin, a glacial massif near the Italian border in the Wallis region.

Seven helicopters with mountain rescue experts flew to the scene, finding 17 mountaineers split among several groups.

“Two people died at the scene of the accident,” Wallis police said in a statement. They were a 40-year-old Frenchwoman and a 65-year-old man from Spain.

Nine mountaineers were airlifted to hospitals in nearby Sion and in Lausanne. Two of them are seriously injured, police said.

Other mountaineers were evacuated by helicopter.

The regional public prosecutor has opened an investigation “to determine the circumstances of this event”, the police said.

The serac fall happened at an altitude of 3,400 metres in the Plateau de Dejeuner section along the Voie du Gardien ascent route.

The Grand Combin massif has three summits above 4,000 metres, the highest of which is the Combin de Grafeneire at 4,314 metres.

The police issued a note of caution about setting off on such high-altitude expeditions.

“When the zero-degree-Celsius isotherm is around 4,000 metres above sea level, it is better to be extra careful or not attempt the route if in doubt,” Wallis police said.

“The golden rule is to find out beforehand from the mountain guides about the chosen route and its current feasibility.”

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