France must halt ‘abusive’ identity checks by police: Human Rights Watch

US Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-MN) (L) talks with Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) during a rally with fellow Democrats before voting on H.R. 1, or the People Act, on the East Steps of the US Capitol on March 08, 2019 in Washington, DC. (AFP photo)

Protesters hold up placards during a demonstration on June 14, 2020, in Strasbourg, eastern France, as part of the 'Black Lives Matter' worldwide protests against racism and police brutality. (Photo by AFP)

France should halt identity checks by the police that are ‘abusive and discriminatory,’ Human Rights Watch said on Sunday, following angry protests over alleged racism in the security forces.

France has seen a number of demonstrations over the last days protesting the actions of police and highlighting the death of young black man Adama Traore in police custody in 2016.

The protests have been given additional impetus by the death in the US of George Floyd, with thousands turning out in Paris on Saturday for a new protest that ended with clashes against police.

HRW said French President Emmanuel Macron, who is due to address the nation at 1800 GMT, should identify concrete reforms to end racism within the police.

"These reforms should include an end to abusive and discriminatory identity checks," it said, describing them as a "longstanding problem" and "at the heart of concerns around institutional racism and discrimination."

Benedicte Jeannerod, HRW's France director, said: "President Macron should not just condemn racism, but announce specific reforms to end ethnic profiling and abusive identity checks that all too often cause real harm... particularly for minorities in France."

HRW said next week it will publish a report documenting the "overly broad powers" of French police to conduct "discriminatory" stop-and-search checks on black and Arab males.

The rights group said that it had documented "repetitive, baseless" police checks targeting ethnic minorities, including children as young as 10.

It called on Macron to endorse reforms to require reasonable suspicion based on individual behavior as the grounds for all stops and to explicitly prohibit discrimination.

France's police forces vehemently reject allegations of institutionalized racism, saying that while there have been problems they are down to individuals.


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