Concluding observations of the Committee against Torture
137. The Committee considered
the second periodic report of France (CAT/C/17/Add.18) at its 320th,
321st and 322nd meetings, on 6 May 1998 (CAT/C/SR.320, 321 and 322),
and adopted the following conclusions and recommendations.
138. The Committee is
gratified to note that the second periodic report of France complies
with the general guidelines for periodic reports (CAT/C/14), although
it was submitted some six years late.
139. The Committee listened with great interest to the oral presentation
which, like the report, revealed the efforts of the State party
to be honest, specific and comprehensive, and to the explanations
and clarifications furnished by the French delegation, which displayed
a clear desire for constructive dialogue and a solid professionalism.
140. The Committee is particularly gratified at the fact that the
composition and size of the delegation clearly demonstrated France's
interest in the work of the Committee.
2. Positive aspects
141. The Committee was
pleased to note the following positive aspects:
(a) The manifest determination
of the French Government to combat torture, shown in particular
in certain provisions of the new Criminal Code, for example, articles
221-1, 222-1 and 432-4 to 432-6;
(b) The numerous projected
improvements to legislation and current practice, such as the creation
of a supreme ethics council; the drafting of a practical ethics
handbook for use by the police forces; the guidelines on prison
monitoring; the reactivation of the supreme prison administration
council; the principle that a lawyer should be present from the
outset of custody for most offences; and the curtailment of the
duration of pre-trial detention;
(c) The announcement
of a further contribution to the United Nations Voluntary Fund for
Victims of Torture.
3. Factors and difficulties
impeding the application of the provisions of the Convention
142. The Committee notes
that there are no particular impediments to the implementation of
the Convention in France.
4. Subjects of concern
143. The Committee is
concerned about the following:
(a) The absence, in
French positive law, of a definition of torture which conforms fully
with article 1 of the Convention;
(b) The system of "appropriateness
of prosecution", leaving public prosecutors free to decide not to
prosecute perpetrators of acts of torture, or even to order an inquiry,
which is clearly in conflict with the provisions of article 12 of
(c) That aspect of
the procedure for taking evidence under which the courts are not
explicitly prohibited from admitting evidence obtained under torture,
which contravenes article 15 of the Convention;
(d) The practice whereby
the police hand over individuals to their counterparts in another
country, despite the fact that a French court has declared such
practices to be illegal; this is contrary to the duties of the State
party under article 3 of the Convention;
(e) Sporadic allegations
of violence committed by members of the police and gendarmerie at
the time of arrest of suspects and during questioning.
144. The State party
should consider incorporating into its criminal law a definition
of torture which conforms with article 1 of the Convention.
145. The State party
should pay greater attention to the provisions of article 3 of the
Convention, which applies equally to expulsion, refoulement
and extradition and, as demanded by a number of non-governmental
organizations and as proposed by the National Advisory Committee
on Human Rights, the possibility should exist of lodging a suspensive
appeal against a refusal to allow entry into France and subsequent
146. The State party
should pay maximum attention to allegations of violence by members
of the police forces, with a view to instigating impartial inquiries
and, in proven cases, applying appropriate penalties.
147. In this connection,
and in the interest of conforming with the letter and spirit of
article 12 of the Convention, the State party should consider abrogating
the current system of "appropriateness of prosecution" in order
to remove all doubt regarding the obligation of the competent authorities
to institute systematically and on their own initiative impartial
inquiries in all cases where there are reasonable grounds for believing
that an act of torture has been committed anywhere within the territory
under their jurisdiction.
148. The State party
is invited to submit its third periodic report as soon as possible
in order to adhere to the schedule for the submission of reports
laid down in the Convention.