Wed | Dec 6, 2023

French police accused of systemic discrimination in landmark legal case

Published:Saturday | September 30, 2023 | 9:56 AM
Thousands of people take part in a demonstration against police brutality and racism in Paris, France, on June 13, 2020. France’s highest administrative authority held a landmark hearing over accusations of systemic discrimination in identity checks by French police. Local grassroots organizations and international rights groups filed France’s first class-action lawsuit targeting the nation’s police force. (AP Photo/Thibault Camus, File)

PARIS (AP) — France's highest administrative authority held a landmark hearing Friday over accusations of systemic discrimination in identity checks by French police.

Victims are not seeking money, but a ruling to force deep reforms within law enforcement to end racial profiling.

Local grassroots organisations and international rights groups allege that French police target black people and people of Arab descent in choosing who to stop and check.

They filed France's first class-action lawsuit against police in 2021, and the case reached the Council of State on Friday.

The government has denied systemic discrimination by police and has said that police officers are increasingly targeted by violence.

A decision is expected in the coming weeks.

“This was a big step in a battle that I hope we will win one day,'' said Achille Ndari, who attended Friday's hearing and who is among those whose personal accounts informed the lawsuit.

He said he was targeted by a rough police ID check for the first time during his first year of law school, and that it made him cry in his bed.

Ndari, who is black, said it shook his confidence in himself, his identity and France's system of law and order.

Now a street performer in Paris, he described his awe after attending Friday's hearing, and the feeling that the experiences of people like him were finally heard.

“It's not everyone who has the chance to go to such a place'' as hallowed as the Council of State, he said.

“Now there will always be a trace of our suffering, our invisible, silent suffering.''

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