© Photo: Assa Traoré

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HRC49: France must end impunity for police violence against people of African descent

Comité Vérité et Justice pour Adama and ISHR highlighted the systemic racism in the French justice system and urged France to end impunity for police violence

On 28 March 2022, Comité Vérité et Justice pour Adama and ISHR delivered a joint statement during the 49th session of the Human Rights Council, denouncing police violence and systemic racism in the French justice system. Assa Traoré, whose brother was brutally killed by police officers in 2016, called upon French authorities to properly investigate her brother’s killing and ensure the respect for human rights. 

“Today,  we still have not had an indictment; today we denounce the racist nature of the death of my little brother; today I have over four indictments because I denounced this system, this judicial system, this racist system under which my brother died” Assa Traoré told the Members of the Council.

Unfortunately, the judicial harassment she faces is not an isolated incident, but reflects the daily life of many survivors, relatives of victims and activists who denounce police violence in France, and in particular that of women from ethnic and racial minorities.

The statement was delivered during the General Debate on Item 9, dedicated to the implementation of the Durban Declaration and Programme of Action (DDPA) to eliminate racism, racial discrimination, xenophobia and related intolerance. The report presented by the Chair-Rapporteur H.E. Marie Chantal Rwakazina of the DDPA Working Group highlights that States need to reaffirm their commitment to combat inequalities and strengthen their national programmes to address the root causes and growing manifestations of racism. “Efforts to combat racism have been delayed and even denied by a lack of political will in many States and societies” she reported. 

During the enhanced general debate, several States reiterated their strong commitment to implement such measures and urged both themselves and others to do more. For example, the African Group called upon States to multiply concrete measures and deplored that it was recently obliged to remind the international community to treat all refugees fleeing from conflict zones equally and with dignity, regardless of the colour of their skin. Whereas all delegations deplored that racism is still present in almost all parts of the world, some acknowledged that self-reflection and self-criticism is needed for a real anti-racist agenda. As the German delegation put it, “it is not enough to be neutral or not racist; we have to be anti-racist”. Some States also described some of the measures they have recently taken to implement the DDPA. 

Despite the efforts since the adoption of the DDPA two decades ago, there is still a long walk to a society free from racial discrimination. 

ISHR urges States to adopt ambitious national programmes to seriously tackle the systemic challenges around racism and give themselves the means to achieve these goals. In the case of France, our organisations remind  the authorities that they need to ensure a prompt, transparent, and impartial investigation into the case of Adama Traoré, end the judicial harassment of human rights defenders, and accept the requests for visits from the UN Special Rapporteur on Racism and the Working Group on People of African Descent.

Watch the statement here:

 

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