UN slams French prejudice

Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination criticises a 'lack of political will' against rising acts of racism

THE UNITED Nations' Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination has criticised the French government for a lack of political will' in tackling mounting acts of racism.

The timing of a report on France's behaviour towards minorities comes as the government begins to close gypsy encampments across the country.

It has stirred further debate over the closures and the actions of the government including its debate on national identity, its expulsion of some travellers from the country and plans to strip certain criminals of their nationality.

A visa system for travellers and a policy of limiting voting rights to those who have lived for several months in the same commune were also criticised.

One UN expert said the government’s attitudes amounted to an “incitement to hatred,” while another said that the travel log books required to be used by those without a fixed address reminded him of the Pétain period.

Another questioned the constitutionality of special measures for French people who were originally of foreign origin and said he failed to see exactly who might be defined as such. The legality of expelling minorities such as gypsies from Eastern Europe, as they are EU citizens, was also raised.

In Choisy-le-Roi in the Val-de-Marne, a group of 50 gypsies have been given shelter by the local mairie in a school gymnasium after the government closed down their camp.

The local authority said the move was not permanent but added it had decided to take action because the state was not taking responsibility for its action.

The prefect of the Pyrénées-Atlantiques has responded to a letter criticising the policies of deportation and comparing them with the politics of France's Vichy government, by successfully suing the authors.

A tribunal in Pau has ordered five supporters of the group Réseau education sans frontiers to pay €1,000 in damages after their letter criticising the expulsion of an Albanian family in July 2008.

Prosecuting, Erik Maurel said: "All freedoms have their limits, including freedom of expression."

He said various references to yellow stars and the round up of Jews was an abuse of the freedom of expression.

Defending, Maripierre Massou said the charge criminalised political opinion and said it was ridiculous to not make the associations with that era of French history.

The Secretary of State for European Affairs, Pierre Lellouche, said that France was a state which supported human rights; a political idea which the country had effectively invented over 200 years ago.