Country work

France: Class Action Lawsuit against Ethnic Profiling

Civil Society Organizations File Case With Council of State over Systemic Racial Discrimination

(Paris, July 22, 2021) – France has failed to take necessary steps to prevent and remedy ethnic profiling by the police during identity checks—a form of systemic discrimination, six French and international human rights organizations said today in filing a class action lawsuit against the French state. The groups are asking the Council of State to find the French state at fault for failing to prevent widespread use of ethnic profiling by the police and to order the authorities to adopt necessary reforms.

The class action is an innovative procedure under French law that allows civil society groups to ask the court to order the authorities to take measures to put an end to the widespread illegal practice of ethnic profiling.

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France: Systemic Police Discrimination Requires Reforms

Groups Initiate Class Action Suit on Discriminatory Identity Checks

Police in France engage in a longstanding and widespread practice of ethnic profiling that constitutes systemic discrimination, a group of six French and international human rights organizations said today, as they initiated the first class action against the French state over the practice. The organizations sent a letter of formal notice on January 27, 2021, to the prime minister and the interior and justice ministers to press for structural reforms and concrete measures to put an end to discriminatory police practices.

Despite incontrovertible evidence that French police have engaged in systematic discrimination during identity checks for many years, and commitments by successive governments to address the problem, nothing has changed, the organizations said. The class action suit is needed to end this stigmatizing, humiliating, and degrading practice.

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Netherlands: We sense trouble: Automated discrimination and mass surveillance in predictive policing in the Netherlands

Around the world, police forces are experimenting with data and algorithms with the aim of anticipating and preventing crime. Law enforcement agencies in many countries are deploying investigative tools that they allege can ‘predict’ crime. These tools consist of data and algorithmic models to assess the risk that a crime will be committed by a certain person or at a certain location. One of the countries at the forefront of predictive policing in actual practice is the Netherlands. This report contains the findings of an investigation that Amnesty International conducted on one of these ‘living labs’: the Sensing project in the city of Roermond.

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A flawed process: Revision of the Dutch use-of-force policies

In the Netherlands, AI is following some worrying developments with regards to the use of force policy and equipment used by the Dutch police. Between February 2017 and February 2018, police piloted the introduction of electro-shock weapons in day-to-day policing. As AINL highlighted in the report “A Failed Experiment: The Taser-Pilot of the Dutch Police”, the weapon was often used in a highly problematic manner, in situations where there was no threat to life or risk of serious injury as well as against mentally ill persons and persons who were already restrained. The Taser was also frequently used in drive-stun mode which is not incapacitating, but only serves the purpose of inflicting pain and should be prohibited.

The Dutch police has also recently started a consultation process, in which AINL participates, on kinetic impact weapons to determine if and how they may be an appropriate weapon for law enforcement. This consultation however does not seem to genuinely influence the decision-making process regarding the policy: The Minister of Justice and Security recently already presented a revised version of the ministerial instructions which regulate the use of force and equipment for the Dutch police (‘Ambtsinstructie’): Not only is it a vague document with low use-of-force thresholds that is failing to establish clear and human rights compliant criteria on the use of force. It also introduces electro-shock weapons and kinetic impact projectiles while the evaluation and consultation processes on these weapons are still ongoing. As part of the open consultation process, AINL submitted a briefing to the Dutch authorities to voice serious concerns about both the content of the instructions and the process behind it.

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