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French anti-riot police in Rue de Temple, Paris. Twitter

HRW urges Macron to end ‘abusive and discriminatory identity checks’

The American NGO, based in New York, wants the French president to support the introduction of “'identity check receipts' to guarantee that data relating to checks are collected”.

Published: June 15, 2020, 8:57 am

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    While global news has been focused on the death of George Floyd, Human Rights Watch on Sunday, June 14, called on Emmanuel Macron to announce “concrete reforms” to end “abusive and discriminatory identity checks” and “racism within the police”.

    The appeal was launched the day after demonstrations in France to denounce “police violence”.

    “French President Emmanuel Macron should indicate the implementation of concrete reforms to end racism in the security forces ” during his televised intervention on Sunday at 8 pm, the NGO said in a press release.

    The NGO also insisted that these reforms “should include the end of abusive and discriminatory identity checks (…) at the heart of concerns about institutional racism and discrimination in the country”.

    HRW demanded that Emmanuel Macron support the introduction of “‘identity control receipts’ or any other effective means to guarantee that data relating to controls are systematically collected”.

    As a reminder, the question of police violence has returned to the forefront in France in the wake of a global movement sparked by riots for George Floyd, a black man asphyxiated by a white police officer.

    In 2012, former President François Hollande had promised to introduce a system of a “receipt” issued by the police but it has never been implemented and “is not a panacea” according many observers.

    “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” in France.

    The President of the Republic spoke on Sunday evening for about twenty minutes for the fourth time since the start of the Coronavirus crisis. The crisis, according to Macron, is now (almost) behind us and it has been “perfectly managed” by his government.

    “He swept away the problems in ten or twenty seconds,” said political scientist Virginie Martin, research professor at Kedge Business school and president of the think tank Different. The shortage of masks? Communication blunders? Caregivers’ fed up? “He simply ignored his shortcomings since he does not recognize them,” the political scientist told news outlet 20minutes.

    “There are elements that make you think,” Martial Foucault, director of Cevipof, noted. Emmanuel Macron, who “said ‘I’ thirty times in twenty minutes”, wanted to appear as “having been the president who made the best choices in the context”, the “guardian of good deeds”, the one who leads in Europe.

    While demonstrations against police violence have been ongoing, Macron succinctly expressed his support for the police, which has been a great help to him during the Yellow Vest crisis.

    “The country has been on fire and bathed blood for three years and he speaks to us of a beautiful country,” Virginie Martin observed. And the she concluded: “He is disguising reality. But that’s what the era demands of him that he has perfectly understood, it’s clever.”

    “Jupiter” as Macron calls himself, did make some announcements on Sunday evening. The reopening of cafes and restaurants in Ile-de-France will start from Monday, while nurseries, schools and colleges will be open for all from June 22.

    Above all mentioned, he mentioned several times that the “reconstruction” of the country will take place without explaining how he intended to do so concretely. “There is no very clear indication allowing to establish a roadmap for a future government,” concluded Martial Foucault.

    For several days now, the police in France have made their voices heard. On Sunday, a few hours after the president’s speech, they continued their angry demonstrations.

    And it will probably take more than a few words in front of a camera to appease the ire of the police, because the police had expected a lot from Macron’s speech. But judging by the Parisian mobilization that followed – hundreds of police gathered in the evening on the Trocadéro esplanade – the president missed the mark.

    “We are not at all reassured by the speech tonight, on the contrary. We, what we want is concrete and above all we want the Minister of the Interior to backtrack,” after his announcements of Monday, June 8, explained one of the agents present at the demonstration.

    French weekly Le Point reported that his colleagues agreed: “Being abandoned by your boss is really terrible! We have the impression that it is the street that is in control and we feel completely abandoned.” Police threw their handcuffs to the ground in protest.

    In his speech on Sunday, Macron said that the French police “deserve the support of the public authorities and the recognition of the Nation. Without a republican order, there is neither security nor freedom,” he continued, adding that “this order is guaranteed by the police and gendarmes on our soil”.

    On Friday, Christophe Castaner received several police unions, which criticized him in particular for announcing the end of the use of the so-called “strangulation” technique. The officers also reproach him for his words of the last few days, in particular the expression “proven suspicion” to designate possible acts of racism in the police.

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