Minorities Sue France for Racial Profiling

For some Black and Arab French, police stops happen every day.

Posted: 04/11/2012 04:12 PM EDT
French lawyer Felix de Belloy, center, addresses reporters outside Paris court house Wednesday April 11, 2012. Felix de Belloy, along with three other lawyers and supported by the Open Justice Initiative, has filed civil suit on behalf of 15 individuals, complaining that they have been subject to police "stop and search" checks solely on the basisi of the color of their skin and ethnicity. The statement says it's the first such collective action in a racial profiling case in France.(AP Photo/Remy de la Mauviniere)

A new, landmark French lawsuit proves that racial profiling is a worldwide phenomenon.


Wednesday, lawyers representing a group of 15 Black and Arab French citizens who say they were unfairly targeted by police because of the color of their skin announced that they will sue the French state.


If the case is accepted for investigation by authorities, it will be the first time France will consider claims of racial profiling in a collective action.


According to the Open Society Justice Initiative (OSJI), for many minorities in France, police stops have become another one of life’s daily routines. The popular expression for police stops is “appearance control” (contrôle au faciès), or the crime of having an “ugly face” (delit de sale gueule).


Although French police do not release information about their stop and search policies, a study conducted by France’s National Centre for Scientific Research and OSJI found that those presumed to be “Black” were, on average, six times more likely than those presumed to be “white” to be stopped by police. Those presumed to be “Arab” were eight times more likely than those presumed to be “white” to be stopped.

Although many of the claimants share similar racial backgrounds, they span all walks of French society. Among them are students, a political aide, a delivery man and a professional musician among others.


The lawyers noted that although it is hard to prove the motivation for a police stop, they hope the action will result in better monitoring of police activity, reports the Associated Press.


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(Photo: AP Photo/Remy de la Mauviniere)

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