University of Minnesota

Conclusions and recommendations of the Committee on the Elimination of
Racial Discrimination, France, U.N. Doc. A/49/18, paras. 116-159 (1994).





Concluding observations of the Committee on the
Elimination of Racial Discrimination


116. The ninth, tenth and eleventh periodic reports of France, submitted in one document (CERD/C/225/Add.2), were considered by the Committee at its 1014th and 1015th meetings, on 1 March 1994 (see CERD/C/SR.1014-1015).

117. The report was introduced by the representative of the State party, who pointed out that there were 3.6 million foreigners residing in France, comprising 6.3 per cent of the total population, including the overseas territories and departments. Integrating the foreign population was one of the main priorities of the Government and a number of initiatives had been undertaken to address the problems experienced by the foreigners, particularly families, concerning employment, housing and education. To that end, a guide entitled Vivre en France (Living in France) had been produced and translated into Arabic and Turkish for distribution to newly-arrived families.

118. Of particular note to the Committee was the new Penal Code, which had just entered into force on 1 March 1994 and which contained a number of provisions aimed at preventing and punishing racist or discriminatory acts, including crimes against humanity. Two new infractions had been created, namely taking advantage of those in a vulnerable and dependent situation to exploit their work, and subjecting someone to working or housing conditions incompatible with human dignity. These and other changes had been the focus of a recently published guide to the new anti-racist laws, which would be widely distributed.

119. Other steps had been taken to combat racism, notably the creation of anti-racism units at the departmental level. Those units, which were composed of representatives of the State, legal and other professional organizations and locally elected officials, focused particularly on education, housing and police/administration of justice matters, and made recommendations for action by the administration. The arrangement also provided for a dialogue between anti-racism organizations and government services, which permitted problems to be resolved more rapidly.

120. Members of the Committee expressed their satisfaction at the report submitted by the Government of France and thanked the representative of the State party for the updated and detailed information contained in his introduction.

121. Members of the Committee expressed concern over the preponderant number of young people among those convicted of racist acts, and the large number of young people in France who supported ultranationalist politicians who advocated racial and ethnic intolerance. With regard to overseas territories, they requested statistical information concerning the composition of the population of New Caledonia and the social and economic conditions in which Kanaks lived. They wanted to know what measures had been taken to protect and develop the indigenous language and culture in overseas territories and whether it was true that a large proportion of the land in the Polynesian islands now belonged to hotels or tourist businesses. They asked what steps the Government had taken to preserve the identity of indigenous people in French Polynesia.

122. In connection with article 1 of the Convention, the members of the Committee enquired about protection against discrimination in practice. They sought further information on changes in the nationality laws and, in particular, whether those changes were in conformity with the Convention. They wanted to know if practical results had been achieved regarding the implementation of Act No. 89-548 concerning the improvement of the conditions governing the residence of foreigners in France. In relation to the provisions of the new Penal Code concerning crimes against humanity, members of the Committee asked who the offenders might be, and what the main penalties imposed were.

123. In connection with article 2 of the Convention, members of the Committee asked whether, under the newly adopted legislation, it was possible for measures to be taken favouring certain vulnerable racial groups, as provided for under article 2, paragraph 2, of the Convention. They also wanted to know whether it was possible for children of foreign origin to learn their mother tongue and to keep their cultural identity or whether the policy was to integrate them into society as French citizens. They expressed concern lest the law on the computer storage of personal data restrict research into the incidence of ethnic inequalities. Members of the Committee asked for further information on the right of persons living in the overseas departments and territories to own property and to have access to education and health services. Concerning article 3, attention was drawn to social trends towards residential and educational segregation.

124. In connection with article 4 of the Convention, members of the Committee wanted to know whether the number of convictions on a principal charge of racism had continued to increase in 1992 and 1993 and whether organizations found guilty of supporting racist acts or publishing racist propaganda had been declared illegal and disbanded in conformity with the Convention. They also wished to know what steps had been taken to prevent the occurrence of racist acts and violence such as those occurring in other countries in Europe. In that connection, they requested further information on the activities of the Unit to Combat Racism and Anti-Semitism, noting the number of manifestations of racism and xenophobia. They wanted to know what action had been taken to enforce the provision of the Act of 31 December 1987 prohibiting the offering, giving or selling to minors of publications of a racist or xenophobic nature. The members of the Committee wished to have information on the number of persons of Vietnamese or Cambodian origin and whether those persons had been the object of racist propaganda or attacks in France.

125. In connection with article 5 of the Convention, the Committee wanted to know what steps had been taken to ensure that preventive identity checks were not being carried out in a discriminatory manner by the police. Members asked what limitations were imposed in the use of regional languages and dialects, such as those found in Brittany and Alsace, and whether certain information relating to the family, such as birth and death notices, could be published in newspapers only in French.

126. With reference to article 6 of the Convention, members of the Committee wished to know the practical impact of the decision to extend the list of associations authorized to institute legal proceedings in cases of incitement to racial discrimination, hatred, violence, defamation or insult.

127. In connection with article 7 of the Convention, members of the Committee wished to know what steps had been taken to ensure adequate training of the police in matters concerning racial discrimination, in the light of the Committee's general recommendation XIII (42), and whether the frontier police and immigration officials did not discriminate against non-European foreigners seeking to enter the country.

128. Replying to questions and comments by members of the Committee, the representative of the State party said, concerning the new French Nationality Code, that the voluntary choice of nationality was conducive to integration; thus, young persons born in France of non-French parents and residing in France were able to exercise such a choice at any time between the ages of 16 and 21. The concept of jus soli was not called into question under the new law as French nationality was granted automatically at birth to the offspring of French parents, to those born in France of non-French parents also born in France, and to those born in France of parents born abroad when the parents did not transmit their own nationality. Beyond the age of 21, young people who had not opted for French nationality could acquire it through the regular process of naturalization. With regard to marriage, the new Code provided for a period of two years rather than the previously required six months before the non-French spouse could acquire French nationality. Each year, some 100,000 foreigners acquired French nationality. In relation to the question about Cambodian and Vietnamese persons, he said that the numbers of persons of Cambodian, Vietnamese, Lao and Chinese origin residing in France in 1990 had been 38,231, 29,855, 23,703 and 12,672 respectively; the figures for French-born nationals of those countries resident in France in the same year had been 9,138, 3,888, 8,100 and 1,065.

129. In answer to the questions on immigration, the representative of the State party said that the French authorities' objective was to control the influx of foreigners and to combat clandestine entry into the country, France being wholly committed to the principle of free movement of persons and goods. The legislation providing for the measures taken to control the lawfulness of movement across the country's borders and to persuade non-citizens found guilty of entering France illegally to return had been submitted to the scrutiny of the Constitutional Council, which monitored its conformity with the relevant international instruments to which France is party. He emphasized the recent amendments to the legislation on identity checks, administrative detention, conditions in international transit zones in airports and seaports, family reunification, medical assistance and the granting of asylum, which had significantly strengthened the protection of foreigners. As to the questions and criticism concerning conditions of administrative detention, he said that current shortcomings had been officially acknowledged and were being remedied. He added that steps were also being taken to ensure that persons so detained could fully exercise their rights.

130. Referring to political asylum, he pointed out that the preamble to the Constitution of the French Republic singled out a particular set of circumstances which made the granting of asylum mandatory in the case of claimants arriving directly on French soil from their own countries or from countries which were not members of the European Union; France was party to the Convention relating to the Status of Refugees and had signed the Dublin Convention and the Schengen Agreement.

131. On the question of mixed marriages, foreign spouses of French citizens who met the conditions of entry into France were allowed to enter the country, but had to wait one year before their provisional permit was converted into a residence permit, which also served as a work permit. They could have worker

status before receiving a residence permit if they provided evidence of employment in the form of a contract. Recent legislation sought to reduce concentration of particular groups in urban areas.

132. Access to the French health service was conditional on regularity of status. The medical assistance available to all persons in accordance with the provisions of the relevant European conventions was available to illegal immigrants.

133. In reply to the questions on the training of police officers, he said that even if the candidates passed the entry examinations, they must have clean records; police officers were liable to harsh penalties for service-related or personal misconduct and they had to carry a copy of the code of ethics.

134. Replying to a question concerning the authorization of political parties representing a specific religion or ethnic group, the representative of the State party said that as political parties constituted associations they were entitled to have objectives of an ethnic or religious nature. There were no such political parties in France.

135. As to the questions concerning penalties for racist offences, the representative said that for the offence of uttering racist insults, 9 sentences of imprisonment and 18 suspended sentences had been imposed in 1991, and 8 prison sentences and 13 suspended sentences in 1992; for the offence of incitement to racial hatred, 3 prison sentences and 7 suspended sentences had been imposed in 1991 and 2 prison sentences and 3 suspended sentences in 1992. In December 1992, the Court of Paris had sentenced two persons to six months' imprisonment for publishing a pamphlet advocating an "Aryan State" along Nazi lines. Deprivation of civil liberties could be imposed for a maximum period of five years, and included a ban upon jury duty, upon holding a position in the public service and upon standing for election; such a penalty was often imposed in cases involving racist offences.

136. In reply to the question concerning the disbanding of racist groups, he said that any party or association advocating racial hatred or violence was liable to be disbanded; until now the procedure had been administrative, via presidential decree, but article 131 (39) of the new Penal Code made such an offence on the part of a legal person punishable by law.

137. There had been changes in the law governing identity checks: police officers were entitled to ask to check identity papers only in cases involving a threat to public order or danger to persons or property. Any identity check on a foreigner merely on the basis of his physical appearance would be considered invalid by the courts.

138. With regard to the more detailed information requested on crimes against humanity, the representative of the State party said that French law distinguished between crimes committed during the Second World War and crimes punishable as from 1 March 1994 under the new Penal Code, provided that they were committed by French citizens or against French citizens.

139. On the questions raised about the overseas territories and departments, the representative said that the overseas territories were not governed by laws applicable in metropolitan France and its overseas departments. The principles of the Constitution applied in the same manner in all the French territories. In the case of New Caledonia, the French Government, the territory itself and the provinces had their separate areas of jurisdiction. As far as land ownership was concerned, a system of property redistribution had been in operation in New Caledonia since 1988 and some 70,000 hectares had been redistributed over four years. In French Polynesia, land ownership was in the hands of the Polynesians.

Concluding observations

140. At its 1040th meeting, on 18 March 1994, the Committee adopted the following concluding observations.

(a) Introduction

141. The opportunity to continue the dialogue with the Government of France is welcomed, and the presence, during the consideration of the report, of a delegation composed of officials from various departments concerned with the protection of human rights is appreciated. Although the report lacked information on a number of issues, the information provided by the delegation in introducing the report and the comprehensive replies furnished to questions raised by the Committee members clarified several points not elaborated in the report. Unfortunately, many questions were not answered.

(b) Positive aspects

142. It is noted with satisfaction that measures have recently been adopted by the French authorities to prevent and intensify the fight against racial discrimination and xenophobia. In that connection, such measures as the establishment of departmental units to coordinate action to combat racism, the role accorded to non-governmental organizations in combating racism as provided for by law, the establishment of the new offence regarding crimes against humanity under Act No. 90-615 of 30 July 1990, and the entry into force, on 1 March 1994, of the new Penal Code provision establishing the criminal responsibility of legal persons for the offence of discrimination are welcomed. Appreciation is also expressed for the recent publication of the 1992 report of the National Consultative Commission on Human Rights entitled "The struggle against racism and xenophobia". Those measures, as well as others listed in the report, indicate the seriousness with which the Government of France is addressing its obligations under the Convention.

(c) Principal subjects of concern

143. Serious concern is expressed at the manifestations of racism and xenophobia, which appear to be on the increase in France as well as in many countries in Europe and on other continents. A particular concern is the high proportion of young people who, according to official statistics, are involved in actions of racial violence. It appears that an active extremist minority propagating nationalist and racist ideologies is receiving increasing support, especially in those sectors of society most affected by unemployment.

144. Insufficient information was provided in the report about the new laws of immigration and asylum. Concern is expressed that the implementation of these laws could have racially discriminatory consequences, particularly in connection with the imposition of limitations on the right of appeal against expulsion orders and the preventive detention of foreigners at points of entry for excessively long periods. Concern is also expressed that these laws may generate or reinforce a xenophobic atmosphere in French society.

145. Concern is expressed over procedures concerning identity controls which confer on the police, for preventive reasons, broad discretion in checking the identity of foreigners in public, a measure which could encourage discrimination in practice. Concern is also expressed that the law enforcement services should reflect the ethnic diversity of the population and that adequate training with respect to racial discrimination should be organized.

146. More information is requested regarding the application of the Matignon Accords, taking into account the interests of the indigenous people of New Caledonia. Concern is expressed about possible serious limitations to economic, social and cultural development. More detailed information is also requested on the population of French Polynesia.

147. In view of the statement to the Committee in 1989 that the Government intended to ascertain the views of victims of racial discrimination and to reflect them in the next report, concern is expressed about the absence of this information from the present report.

148. Concern is expressed lest the law on computer technology, files and freedoms impair the Government's readiness to ascertain whether victims of racial discrimination lack effective protection and remedies.

149. Concern is expressed about social trends which result in segregation in areas of residence and in the school system.

150. Concern was expressed in 1983 about the adequacy of sentences imposed for racially motivated crimes; a new concern is added about whether the sentences for racially motivated homicide are consistent, regardless of the ethnic background of the victims.

(d) Suggestions and recommendations

151. The Committee recommends that France strengthen its laws to prohibit actions that are discriminatory in effect, on grounds of race, ethnic or national origin, in accordance with its general recommendation XIV (42), and in order to provide compensation to victims of such discrimination.

152. The Committee recommends that when France reviews its rules restricting certain occupations to French nationals, it ensures that none is discriminatory in effect.

153. The Committee recommends that the Government take further preventive measures to counter racist violence and to implement fully article 4 of the Convention, which obliges States parties to declare illegal and prohibit organizations which promote and incite racial discrimination.

154. The Committee recommends that, in accordance with general recommendation XIII (42), the training of law enforcement officials in human rights standards be strengthened and that their recruitment be broadened to include more members of differing ethnic backgrounds.

155. The Committee recommends that France introduce legislation to provide effective protection of the exercise, without discrimination, of the rights to work and to housing, in both the public and private sectors, and to provide compensation to victims of discrimination.

156. With respect to article 5 (e) (vi), the Committee requests the State party to report on whether languages other than French (including Breton, Basque and German) may be used in official settings and in mass media publications.

157. The Committee requests further information on judicial decisions relating to racial discrimination, penalties applied and payment of compensation.

158. The Committee, noting that the twelfth periodic report of France will be due on 27 August 1994, invites the Government to submit a brief report updating the eleventh periodic report and providing answers to the questions that were not answered at the forty-fourth session. It will expect the thirteenth report to be comprehensive and to be submitted by 27 August 1996.

159. The Committee draws the attention of the State party to the amendment to article 8, paragraph 6, of the Convention, which was approved by the fifteenth meeting of States parties and by the General Assembly in its resolution 47/111, and encourages the State party to expedite its action to accept formally that amendment.




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