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‘Excessive’ police force criticised

Latest report alleges 'shocking' violence and abuse towards minorities during security checks

French police are using broad powers to conduct unwarranted and abusive identity checks on black and Arab young men, according to a report by the Human Rights Watch group released on Thursday.

The report states that minority youth, including children as young as 13, are subjected to frequent stops involving "lengthy questioning, invasive body pat-downs, and the search of personal belongings". which can take place even in the absence of any indication of wrongdoing.

The report details instances of insulting language, racial slurs and excessive use of force by the police, collated from dozens of interviews with French citizens, including 31 children, in Paris, Lyon, and Lille.

Interviewees gave accounts of violence during identity checks, including slaps, kicks, beatings and the use of electro-shock weapons.

French law allows police to carry out identity checks at their discretion, and those stopped do not receive any written documentation explaining or recording the incident. Many of those interviewed by Human Rights Watch had not been told the reason for the check on them.

Youths are allegedly prevented from voicing their complaints or asking questions as this could constitute ‘insulting an officer’, a broad law that prevents subjects from asserting their rights.

Human Rights Watch are calling upon the French government to acknowledge the problems with identity check powers and to adopt legal and policy reforms to prevent ethnic profiling and abusive treatment during stops. They say that “all identity checks and pat-downs should be based on a reasonable, individualised suspicion” and that “anyone stopped should receive written proof, with relevant information including their personal information, the officers involved, and the legal basis for the stop”.

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