US scolds France for violent cops and dirty prisons

The United States has taken France to task for its numerous “human rights problems” in a fairly damning annual report.

US scolds France for violent cops and dirty prisons
Photo: AFP
In its annual report on human rights around the globe the US State Department listed numerous issues in the land of liberté, égalité and fraternité.

Here are the main problems raised, some of which, given where the criticism is coming from, will not go down well with the French – notably criticism of their police officers.

French police attacking migrants

The state report singled out the French police for their treatment of migrants in Calais.

French police had “beaten, kicked and used tear gas against migrants and asylum seekers in Calais”, the report noted.

French police violence

Although French police do not have a reputation for being trigger happy, like their American counterparts, they were also criticized for their “excessive use of force during arrests and beatings shortly after an arrest, some of which involved minors.”

The young Paris high school pupil who was punched to the ground by a policemen after being arrested during a recent protest against labour reforms may identify with this point.

See the video below.

Not for the first time, France was also criticized for its continued expulsions of Roma from makeshift camps.

Massive rise in Islamophobia and anti-Semitism

The number of attacks or insults directed towards Muslims or Islamic places of worship that were motivated by Islamophobia shot up by 281 percent in the first six months of 2016, the report noted.

Throughout the whole of the year the number of anti-Muslim incidents more than tripled, the state department noted, quoting figures from the French government.

The report also noted the steep rise in anti-Semitic attacks in the five months after the January terror attacks in Paris – a jump of 84 percent on the same period in 2014.

Poor state of prisons

Criticism of French prisons by the US seems a bit rich, given the notorious state of jails on the other side of the pond, but nevertheless the State Department chose to highlight a few concerns.

“While prisons and detention centres met many international standards…” there were widespread reports of “overcrowding and unhygienic conditions”.

The US noted there were 65,544 inmates held in French prisons, even though the official capacity is 57,759.

The report also noted that “prison suicide remained a problem”

Some 93 inmates committed suicide in 2014, “a rate considerably higher than that outside prison”.

Suspects locked up for a long time before trial

Another human rights criticism the report noted was the problem in France of “lengthy pre-trial detention”.

“Some suspects spent many years in detention before trial” that the US state department noted was partly due to the “long delays in bringing cases to trial”.

Discrimination against ethnic minorities

“Societal violence and discrimination against immigrants of North African origin, Roma, and other ethnic minorities remained a problem,” read the report.

“Many observers expressed concern that discriminatory hiring practices in both the public and private sectors deprived minorities from sub-Saharan Africa, the Maghreb, the Middle East, and Asia of equal access to employment.”

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France ordered to pay drug traffickers damages

The European Court of Human Rights ordered France on Thursday to pay €5,000 each in compensation to three drug traffickers for breaching their rights after they were caught shipping three tonnes of pure cocaine across the Atlantic.

France ordered to pay drug traffickers damages
The European Court of Human Rights on June 27th ordered France to pay compensation to three drug traffickers. File photo: Bertrand Guay/AFP

The European Court of Human Rights ruled on Thursday that the traffickers' human rights had been breached because the French authorities did not put the crew of the Panama-registered freighter "Junior" immediately before a judge after they had been escorted to Brest in Britanny.

Intercepted off the coast of Africa in 2008, the "Junior" took 18 days to reach the western port. The crew were then placed in custody for two days before being put before a judge who decided to extend their detention.

That was a breach of their rights, the ECHR's judges decided, because the French authorities could have been able to ensure a hearing as soon as the "Junior" reached shore.

Seven members of the ship's crew were sentenced in 2012 to prison sentences of between 10 and 25 years for their role in shipping a cargo with an estimated street value in excess of 100 million euros ($130 million) from Brazil to Algeria.

Their convictions are currently being reviewed at an ongoing appeal hearing.