Amid COVID-19 Lockdown, Justice Initiative Calls for End to Excessive Police Checks in France
The Open Society Justice Initiative joined 20 organizations today by signing an open letter calling on France’s Minister of the Interior and Director General of the National Police to ensure that police checks carried out during COVID-19 containment measures do not use excessive, violent, or discriminatory force. The letter denounces any form of police abuse, even at a time during which police officers and public servants are under particular duress due to the coronavirus outbreak.
Signatory organizations warn that ethnic profiling and police abuse could also hurt France’s COVID-19 containment policies, saying, “Such abuses by the security forces would threaten national cohesion when it is essential to face the serious health crisis in the country. They also risk compromising adherence to the containment and prevention measures decided by the authorities.”
French President Emmanuel Macron announced a nationwide lockdown on Monday, March 16 to prevent the spread of the coronavirus outbreak. The lockdown requires residents leaving their homes to fill out a form indicating their destination and subjects individuals to control checkpoints.
Last week, videos emerged on social media that appeared to show examples of police abuse in Asnières, Grigny, Ivry-sur-Seine, Villeneuve-Saint-Georges, Torcy, Saint-Denis, Paris, and elsewhere in France. In one case, a police officer hit a pedestrian with their motorcycle. In other instances, police reportedly made comments that were xenophobic or homophobic in nature.
In France, discriminatory and abusive police checks against people because of physical appearance or real or supposed ethnic origin are common and rarely sanctioned, as has been verified by research conducted by the Open Society Justice Initiative.