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Application of Legislation, Criminal Cases, Court Rulings

Application of Legislation, Criminal Cases, Court Rulings The Palace of Justice in Paris.

France is strictly observant of discrimination legislation. In 2003, France established an Inter-Ministerial Committee Against Racism and Anti-Semitism (CILRA), which reports to Prime Minister.

National Commission for Human Rights, established in 2007, is engaged in combating xenophobia and discrimination. NCHR prepares reports on legislative bills, national strategies and prepares situational reports regarding xenophobia and discrimination .

Since 2011, the institution of the Commissioner for Human Rights is active in France. He is appointed by the President for a term of six years. One of his three deputies is responsible for the fight against discrimination. The Council for Combating Discrimination and Equality Questions is active under the Commissioner.

An active website https://www.internet-signalement.gouv.fr monitors and removes racist content from the Internet. Central Office for the Fight Against Crime Linked to Information Technology and Communication (OCLCTIC) is actively cooperating with the association of providers (AFA) in matters of removing such content . In June 2012, Ministry of Justice issued a memo regarding investigation of hate crime. Courts across the country have special prosecutors who deal with this specific type of crime .

In 2012 a National Plan to Combat Racism and anti-Semitism for 2012-2014 was created.

In 2012, France launched an inter-departmental action programme against violence and discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity . Several Roma Integration programmes have been launched in in Ivry, Orly, Andatu, Montreuil .

On February 17, it was reported that a former concentration camp Rivesaltes, where many Jews, Gypsies and Spanish refugees were held after the civil war, will be converted into a museum.

On January 18, 2013, it was reported that on the initiative of the Minister of Internal Affairs of France M. Valls the Foundation for Islamic Studies in France (FOIF) was reopened. The Fund primarily monitored the transparency of funding of Muslim places of worship in the country and assisted in the development of Islamic organizations in France. "Now is the time for Islam in France to assume full responsibility and to cooperate with the government in solving the real problems of society. Finally, it is time for FOIF to yield real fruits of its actions," - said Valls .

On April 15th, French Minister of Internal Affairs Manuel Valls held a meeting with Muslim leaders of the country. He announced the creation of a special government commission, which in cooperation with the Ministry of Education would be responsible for the creation of specialized educational institutions for French Muslims .

On June 7th it became known that the deputies of the National Assembly (lower house of the French parliament) rejected resonant bill that banned wearing the hijab in the workplace .

In August the National Advisory Board for Human Rights of France called the eviction of Roma an "administrative pressure" and urged the government to stop the eviction from slums without providing alternative accommodation and to respect the rules of free movement within the EU .

In mid-October of 2013 the Constitutional Council France did not acknowledge the so-called stipulation of conscience of mayors, who did not want to connect people of the same sex by marriage .

On May 15th MPs of the City of Lyon voted in favor of financial assistance (16 thousand Euros) to the local Muslim association. Officials thus decided to express gratitude and to encourage Muslims to continue their close cooperation, because it makes for a great contribution to the peaceful coexistence of religious communities in the city and the region .

On September 23rd it became known that the mayor of the small town of Dreux near Paris began an unprecedented public campaign called "Social Cohesion Project" and received 5.5 million Euros from the French government for its implementation. The aim of the new initiative is the peaceful coexistence of the Muslim and Christian communities of the city .

On December 9th the administrative court of Grenoble ordered local jails to provide their Muslim inmates with food that corresponds to their religious beliefs. This marked the first time in the national legislation when the penal system was forced to deliver the food which corresponds to the religious beliefs of prisoners .

In 2015, France introduced a Nouveau Plan national d’action contre le racisme et l’antisémitisme 2015-2017 (New National Action Plan Against Racism and Antisemitism 2015-2017). It was presented to the public on 17 April 2015 . The plan contains – among others – the following elements: a communications campaign, orchestrated by the government; an operational instance in every department to fight racism and antisemitism; the modification of French criminal law to make racism and antisemitism an aggravating circumstance for all offenses and crimes; the protection of Jewish and Islamic places of worship, schools etc.; creation of a national unit to fight hate on the Internet.

On 7 September, President Hollande himself was more open to a permanent quota when he announced that France would welcome an additional 24 000 refugees. He also said he offered to Chancellor Merkel that Paris would welcome a thousand refugees from Germany (those are the refugees that arrived in Paris and whose reception angered NGOs). The President, in the same announcement, noted again that there should be a clear distinction between economic migration and asylum.

News reports underline that the British and the French government had been reluctant to invest in a new permanent Calais structure for fear it would become a magnet for migrants who want to go to Britain illegally. In just a few weeks’ time, by October 2015, the number of migrants staying in Calais had indeed doubled to a whopping 6000.

According to the Council of Europe , the Basque, Breton, Catalan, Corsican, Dutch, German and Occitan languages would be covered by the Charter. The government adopted a draft law on ratification on 31 July 2015, but it was flat-out refused by the Senate on 27 October 2015. The draft law would have entailed the modification of the constitution, the procedure of which is not possible without the agreement of the Senate. The National Assembly has not started the first reading of the draft law as of yet .

Corsica (La Corse) has been an interesting focal point of ethnic and national tensions for decades and 2015 is no exception. After the regional elections in December 2015, the nationalist Gilles Simeoni was elected president of the Executive Council of the Territorial Collectivity of Corsica. In his acceptance speech , he noted that the Corsican people existed and a new relationship between the Corsican people and the French State was necessary. He supported giving legislative power, a de facto autonomy for Corsica. Prime Minister Manuel Valls made on official visit to Corsica in mid-2016 and flat-out rejected Corsican demands to make Corsican a co-official language on the island – in line with French traditions of the indivisible Republic with French as its official language.

A 2015 report of the National Consultative Commission on Human Rights (La Commission nationale consultative des droits de l'homme, CNCDH) noted that governmental rhetoric and Roma policy was rather focused on law and order than on integration.

On the other hand though, the public image of the Roma ameliorated between 2014-2016 according to a poll conducted by the same commission, for the same report. In December 2014, 77% of respondents thought that the Roma did not want to integrate, but only 57,4% responded the same in January 2016 .

This is not surprising. The Roma were less in the focus of policy debates in 2015 than before, when the Sarkozy government and the early Hollande government was regularly attacked by then-Commissioner Viviane Reding for violent and regular expulsions or when the right-wing journal, Valeur actuelles published a report called Roms l’overdose (the editor-in-chief was fined 2000 EUR in 2015 for the publication of the ). The long version of the CNCDH report also notes this relative invisibility as a possible explanatory factor for the decrease in hostility against the Roma .

According to the State Department’s 2015 human rights report, expulsions of Roma continued in 2015, but the number of such measures declined . On the other hand, the year began with a huge debate when the mayor of Champlan was said to be preventing his services from burying a Roma child (which means that he would have preferred the baby to be buried in the city where she died) . The preliminary investigation was closed with no further action required .

Note that in France, there is a difference of terminology between “travelers” (gens du voyage) and the Roma, both in terms of applicable rules and public opinion. Travelers are considered to be a part of the French nation and integrated (in 2015, the National Assembly began the discussion of a law that would result in the suppression of the so-called circulation booklet – livret de circulation –, still obligatory for travellers ). The exclusion of the Roma and the violence they encounter on behalf of the French is considered as problematic according to the U.N. Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination (CERD) .

Police has been reluctant in investigating hate crime where police officers were involved. For example, investigation against four police officers who wounded a group of Roma during forced eviction in November 2011 was still ongoing in 2014 . Ambiguous criteria of hate crime results in almost a third of reports not being investigated, according to the Ministry of Justice. In more than half of these cases, it is impossible to determine whether a racist crime took place.

Furthermore, victims themselves are often reluctant to turn to police. LGBT rights association reports that 85% of homophobic incidents remain unpunished because victims fail to report to police . Roma face a similar situation, fearing police brutality . On the 21st of May the Organization of Sephardic Jews in France Siona published results of a survey conducted among members of the diaspora. The survey showed that only a fifth of the victims found it necessary to go to the police. According to the respondents, 27.6% of the complaints led to concrete results .

Social networks like Facebook, Twitter or YouTube do not cooperate with the law enforcement in identifying offenders .

On January 18, it was reported that in the city of Shel the police detained and fined a Muslim woman for wearing a niqab in a public place. The repression of wearing religious paraphernalia in public places is a very controversial measure from the point of view of many human rights organizations, moreover, these measures lead to an increase in protest moods among Muslims, which facilitates the work of Islamist extremist groups, but French law has a different point view of this issue. On 8 February, Dre Court also ordered a 24-year-old Muslim woman to pay a fine of 1'100 euros for wearing a niqab in public places.

On the 13th of February the leader of the gang that in 2006 tortured and killed French Jew Ilana Halimi, Yusuf Fofana, was sentenced to an additional prison sentence for making anti-Semitic videos while incarcerated .

On the 2nd of March the correctional court of Nîmes sentenced a well-known member of Parliament, regional counselor of ultra-nationalist “National Front" party in the south region of Languedoc-Roussillon, Julien Sanchez and his colleagues Stefan Bode and Laurent Rou to paying a 4 000 Euro fine for Islamophobic statements on Facebook .

On March 14th a Nantes court sentenced a man to 5 months of imprisonment and a 1 000 Euro fine for publicly offending a Muslim woman in a niqab .

On the 22nd of March the administrative court of Laval made a group of activists belonging to the youth division of the nationalist "National Front" party pay an 800 Euro fine each for Islamophobic writings on mosque walls .

On the 11th of April a court in Valenciennes sentenced a young man, who attacked a Muslim family in a hospital, to 18 months of imprisonment with a follow-up 2-year probation period .

On September 23rd 20-year-old Lucien Abdelrhafor who made a call to a Jewish school in Toulouse, where Mohammed Mera killed four people last year, and threatened to kill Jews, was convicted in a sped up court procedure and sentenced to one year of imprisonment .

On the 4th of October the Aix-en-Provence court of appeals confirmed the sentence regarding French citizen of Muslim faith Luisa-Maria Suisse, who bit a policewoman during arrest. She was sentenced to 2 months of prison and 4 months of probation for disobeying representatives of the law .

On October 11th blogger Boris Le Lay was sentenced to 8 months of imprisonment provisionally and a fine of 5000 Euros, as well as to paying out a compensation in the amount of 1500 Euros including interest and link to indexes to three anti-racist communities for anti-Semitic publications on the Internet .

On the 16th of October the French License Association deprived lawyer A. Dubruelle of Lyon of his professional license for trying to discredit a judge of Jewish nationality .

On November 28th the court of appeals in Paris convicted anti-Semitic comedian Dieudonné M'bala M'bala and sentenced him to a 28 000 Euro fine for badmouthing, slander, provocations to hatred and racial discrimination after twisting Annie Cordy’s song calling it «Holocaust thingies» .

On the 19th of December Jean-Marie Le Pen, ex-leader of the «National Front», was fined for 5000 Euros for stating that Romanians are "naturally" drawn to theft . Apart from that on the 24th of January a French court made the popular micro blog service Twitter display the real names of its anonymous users. The decision was made after complaints from the Association of Jewish Students in France about anti-Semitism online. . The French court of appeals supported this decision on the 28th of June .

On the 14th of November a court ordered “in the course of one month” to remove the book “Anthology of anti-Jewish, anti-Judaism and anti-Zionist discourse”, as well as parts from other anti-Semitic books, from an internet shop belonging to publishing agency «Kontre Kultutre». Apart from that the court ordered the publishing agency of Alain Sorel to pay 8 000 Euros to the “International League against Racism and Anti-Semitism” (LICRA), as well as to pay a part of the legal costs .

Cases of law enforcement agencies’ unwillingness to pursue xenophobes were registered. On the 15th of June 15 the court of French city Angers acquitted a group of Islomophobes, who actively demonstrated against the construction of a new city mosque and more than once incited racial and religious hatred. The judge did not take into account the many complaints about Islamophobic actions of this radical nationalist group from the Muslim community and mayor Jean-Claude Antonini .

35 people have been sentenced on charges related to hate crime in 2014 (two times more than previous year). This increase is a result of a general increase in xenophobia. 21 people received non-custodial sentences (mostly fines), 14 – various prison terms (no more than a year) or compulsory treatment. French courts have a surprising practice of leniency towards a person who attacked a child – sentencing him to a fine or community service.

On January 9, a man was brought on charges for anti-Semitic comments on social networks. He received 75 hours of community service and a suspended prison term . On January 22, Paris Court of Appeal sentenced a Muslim Paris resident to a prison term for causing grievous bodily harm to a random by-passer .

On February 11, author of the video promising another “Toulouse attack” was fined 800 euros and sentenced to a suspended sentence, On February 21, prisoner in Fresnes was fined 500 euros for anti-Semitic abuse against a chaplain.

On March 3, a 28-year-old Morocco national was fined 3000 euros by the Bordeaux City Court for demonstrating “Quesnel” – an anti-Semitic gesture – in front of the Great Synagogue .

On March 26, three attackers on a Jewish family in Ferrol-Ati were sentenced to 18-24 months of probation, compulsory treatment and 900 euro compensation for each victim.

On April 7, a student in Aix-en-Provence was sentenced to probation and expelled from university for writing anti-Semitic letters to a professor.

On April 15, a Lyon resident was fined 1800 euros for calling a Jewish security guard a “dirty Jew”.

On April 17, man was sentenced to a year and six months probation for attacking a Jewish man in Thiers.

On June 26, the Supreme Court of France upheld the appeal decision in favour of the director of the kindergarten, who fired an employee when she came back to work after maternity leave wearing a headscarf (hijab) and refused to take it off at the request of her superiors .

On July 4, court of Toulouse sentenced a woman who attacked a courier from the Jewish school. She was admitted to a psychiatric hospital. On July 9, Correctional Court of Paris ruled that the nine members of Femen movement must pay a fine of 1.5 euros for damaging a bell in Notre Dame in 2013 . However, on September 10, Court of Paris dismissed the charges of nine activists of the Femen movement, who arranged a performance similar to Pussy Riot in Notre Dame. The three guards, whom the court found to have treated the activists cruelly, were sentenced to a suspended fine of 250 to 500 euros .

On July 12, Versailles Administrative Court quashed the decision of one of the municipalities that prohibits wearing the hijab on the beach . On July 18, a resident of Rethel-S.Lekler, member of the National Front was sentenced to nine months in prison, a fine of 50 thousand euros, as well as the five-year disfranchisement, for posting a xenophobic collage online .

On July 18, man accused of attacking a Jewish man in Créteil was sentenced to seven hours community service.

On August 13, Angers Court of Appeal ordered the Mayor of Cholet to pay a fine of 3000 euros after he said that “Hitler did not kill enough gypsies” .

On September 16, it was reported that court of Colmar sentenced a 42 year old man to three months in prison and 1 300 euro fine for displaying an anti-Semitic gesture called “quenelle” near a local synagogue and posting the video online .

On September 22, man who attacked a Jewish family in Villeurbanne received a suspended prison sentence.

On September 29, a 21 year old woman from Strasbourg was sentenced to three months in prison for verbally abusing a Jew in a bus .

On October 1, resident of Saint-Maur les Fosses was sentenced to six months in prison for attacking a Jewish person.

On October 4, French court sentenced two people to 9 months in prison for desecrating a mosque .

On October 6, three criminals who threatened Jews in Saint-Fons synagogue were sentenced to 2000 euro fine and 30 hours of community service.

On October 22, a man was sentenced to four years in prison for arson of a Jewish mini market in Sarcelles .

On October 28, French blogger Boris Le Lay was fined 5000 euros for his anti-Semitic posts .

On October 28, a serial vandal, who desecrated 13 churches in Merlan was ordered to pay a fine of 25 000 euros and sentenced to a year in probation .

On November 3, criminal who painted swastikas on a synagogue in Bastia was sentenced to 120 hours of community service.

On November 10, Paris local was sentenced to 8 months in prison and 1500 euros fine for attacking a Jewish person.

On November 22, Jean-Marie Le Pen was fined 5 000 euros for anti-Roma statements that he made in 2012 .

On April 17, ECHR ruled that France must pay damages for the family of a young Roma man who was killed by police in May 2008. 50 thousand euros was paid to the wife and three children of Josef Guerdner, 10 thousand to his mother and 5 thousand to his siblings .

On July 1, European Court of Human Rights ruled that France has the right to prohibit women from wearing niqabs in public. At the same time, the court expressed concern over Islamophobic sentiments during parliamentary debates regarding this law . There was a case that can be regarded as condoning xenophobia. On June 12, former president of SOS-racism Dominik Sopo was sentenced to a fine for calling a conference of right wing MPs an “anti-Semitic ball”. He was sentenced to pay 600 euros for libel and 1000 euros damages to Marine Le Pen herself .

The tendency towards a soft attitude towards criminals who became the perpetrators of hate incidents continued in France in 2015. On April 17, 2015, the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) ruled that compensation should be paid to the relatives of a young gypsy who was killed by a policeman in May 2008 in the Department of War. The Strasbourg court assessed the damage caused to 50 thousand euros for the wife and three children of Joseph Guerder, 10 thousand euros for the mother, 5 thousand euro for each brother and sister and 2,5 thousand euro for the aunt of the murdered person.

On July 1, the European Court of Human Rights ruled that France has the right to prohibit women from wearing facial veils in public places. At the same time, the court expressed "extreme concern" over the Islamophobic statements during the parliamentary debate on this law.

In September 2015, deputy mayor of one of the districts of Marseille was sentenced to 5 months of imprisonment with a delay in the execution of the sentence for refusing to marry a lesbian couple because of their views.

In October 2015, the court decided that a 64-year-old intersex person should receive a birth certificate, where his "neutral sex" would be noted. However, in 2016 this decision was overruled by a higher court.

However, when a state of emergency was introduced in France in November 2015, 3 336 administrative searches were conducted until mid-January 2016; 290 people were placed under house arrest and 344 were taken into custody. These measures were the result of a series of terrorist acts that shook the country in 2015 and 2016.

The unwillingness of law enforcement agencies to prosecute xenophobes was noted. On June 15, 2013, the court of the French city of Angers acquitted a group of Islamophobes, who actively opposed the construction of a new city mosque and repeatedly incited to racial and religious hatred. The judge did not take into account the numerous complaints against the Islamophobic actions of this radical group of nationalists from the Muslim community and the mayor of Jean-Claude Antonini.

In January 2016, French President Francois Hollande reported that in 12 months, French security services have prohibited 200 people from leaving the country and 50 people have been denied entry on suspicion of links to extremist groups. From November 2015, when a state of emergency was introduced across the country, until mid-January 2016, French police had carried out 3336 administrative searches, 290 people have been placed under house arrest, and 344 people have been arrested.

In 2016, the French government registered the charitable "Freedom of Islam Foundation" with former Minister Jean-Pierre Chevènement. The task of the new foundation will be teaching imams in French and with the basics of French culture. The aim of the project is to reduce the influence of Morocco, Algeria, Tunisia, and Turkey on the Islamic population of France. At the moment the influence is gained by appointment of imams and the financing of mosques. This situation, as a rule, forces the French population to think that Muslims are not their fellow citizens, but agents of foreign countries whose loyalty to France is under question.

The second reason for the launch of the fund was the frustration of the French authorities in CFCM, the central organ of Muslim organizations, which does not have enough influence on Muslim communities to prevent radicalism.

Speaking about the forceful preventive practices of 2016, it is necessary to single out the introduction of the state of emergency in France. It was introduced in November 2015 and then extended by Parliament until 2017. The regime of emergency was introduced on the basis of the law of 1955, which implies such actions in case of immediate danger caused by serious violations of public order or "threatening events". These measures give a number of exclusive powers to the authorities, including the right to impose curfews, restrict people's movement and prohibit mass actions, create safe zones where people can be monitored, and close public places such as theaters, bars, museums, etc.

The state of emergency also grants more powers to security services and the police, in particular the right to search homes at any time without judicial supervision, provide home arrests, and confiscate certain categories of weapons, even if people keep them on legal grounds. During the period under review, the state of emergency allowed the Intelligence Service to conduct raids in the homes of 4,500 suspected activists. More than 700 suspects were forbidden to leave their settlement and were ordered to register with the police every day or once a week. About 30 "radical" mosques were closed on suspicion of inciting people to jihad.

In accordance with the plan Opération Sentinelle (operation "Guards"), since 2015, the anti-terror units have replenished with ten thousand professional soldiers. They regularly participate in patrolling the streets, and also have the task of protecting synagogues, Jewish community buildings, major Christian and Muslim institutions, as well as individuals who are considered threatened by the radicals.

The issue of discrimination by the police seems to be taken seriously by President Macron, who on December 4, 2020, gave an interview to the online edition Brutus and acknowledged that the police are more likely than other citizens to control the identity of non-whites. He announced that starting in January 2021, the government would begin conducting an online identity verification survey allowing citizens to report their experiences with discrimination. Later, he said, the government will create an online platform that will allow citizens to immediately report police abuse when they have experienced discriminatory practices.

The government has a very strong stance against associations and NGOs suspected of sending funds to jihadist groups suspected of receiving foreign money to fight the French model of secularism. Since the beheading of teacher Samuel Pati on October 16, 2020, several such NGOs have been banned. The first, the Collectif Cheikh Yassine, named after the late Hamas religious leader in the Gaza Strip, Imam Abdelhakim Sefrioui, whose anti-Zionism is in fact pure anti-Semitism, engaged in hate speech against Pati, who asked his teenage students to work on the concept of free speech using cartoons of Mohammed published in the satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo. He was later denounced as "Islamophobic" by the father of one of the students, who called Sefrioui for help, and the pair began inciting Pati to kill him on social media, leading one Islamist (who had nothing to do with the case) to decide to kill him at his own school.

"Collectif Cheikh Yassine" was banned on October 21, 2020, and Sefrioui was imprisoned for helping to commit a terrorist crime. The government then came out against Charity Baraka city, a charitable foundation known for raising money to help the needy in 26 Muslim countries. Led by Salafist Idriss Sihamedi, who refuses to accept French secular laws and has always refused to publicly condemn ISIS or al-Qaeda, Charity Baraka city froze assets and was banned on October 28. Finally, the Collectif contre islamophobie en France (CCIF), which also refuses to accept secularism laws, was banned on December 2. A week before the ban, it decided to move its assets, headquarters and activities to an undisclosed foreign country.

There are no specific measures to support ethnic and religious groups because the French Republic is "one and indivisible" according to its constitution, which means that minorities are not recognized as such. French is the only official language in public education, while the language of administration and minority languages (both indigenous, e.g., Britton, Corsican; and foreign, e.g., Arabic) are only optional in public education. However, in his aforementioned interview of December 4, President Macron reiterated his commitment to make Arabic language learning possible in public schools, so that second generation immigrants do not feel alienated from their family culture. In the same speech, he expressed his desire to create a commission to ensure that streets in French cities are named after African or Arab figures who have contributed to French history or who have upheld the values of freedom and universalism. Finally, it should be noted that the debate on immigration is still a major topic of political debate. The right-wing Rassemblement Nationale (RHN) demands an end to immigration (even legal immigration) from foreign countries, including EU member states, although its focus, of course, is non-European immigration. On the other hand, France and the Communist Party advocate opening the borders to immigrants and refugees almost without restrictions. The right-wing radicals have a program to limit immigration to a maximum number of legal migrants per year; to encourage "assimilation" into French culture, to deport foreigners suspected of Islamist radicalism, and to stop development aid to those countries that do not agree to readmit their citizens deported from France (most of them for involvement in terrorism-related activities).

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