Advocacy update

ECHR Fast-Tracks Case on Racial Profiling by Police in France

October 19, 2021
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NEW YORK—Over four years after a complaint on racial profiling was filed before the European Court of Human Rights, the tribunal has designated this case as a priority for more expeditious case-processing by labelling it as a potential “impact” case (“affaire à impact”). The complaint, Seydi and others v. France, was submitted by six French individuals of North African or sub-Saharan origin who claim to have been victims of racial profiling by police. The Justice Initiative represents the applicants alongside two French lawyers.

“The Court’s decision to communicate our application to the French government as a matter of priority underscores the importance of the issues at stake,” said James Goldston, executive director of the Justice Initiative. “Although this case arises out of the specific circumstances of our six clients, it strikes at the heart of a more systemic problem—the pervasive racial profiling by police that on a daily basis denies dignity to those perceived to be Black or of Arab or North African origin.”

The Court invited the French government to submit documents and comments on admissibility and merits of the case by early February 2022. The government has also been invited to indicate if they would agree with an amicable settlement and indicate measures they would propose pertaining to compensation for the complainants.

The ECHR’s decision to fast-track this case puts a spotlight on France at a moment when a domestic class action lawsuit filed by the Open Society Justice Initiative in partnership with la "Maison Communautaire pour un Développement Solidaire" (MCDS), Pazapas, le "Réseau Égalité, Antidiscrimination, Justice Interdisciplinaire" (Reaji), Amnesty International France, and Human Rights Watch, is ongoing. The class action lawsuit calls on the French government to make structural reforms and take concrete measures to address racial profiling by police.

Additionally, new measures proposed in September by the French government following a months-long national consultation into reforms to address police brutality and racial profiling have been criticized by civil rights activists as being lackluster, especially in light of a new security law broadly extending police powers that entered into force earlier this year.

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