1. The Committee
examined the third periodic report of France (CCPR/C/76/Add.7) at its
1597th, 1598th, 1599th and 1600th meetings on 20 and 21 July 1997 and
subsequently adopted, at its 1613th meeting (sixtieth session), held
on 31 July 1997, the following observations:
2. The Committee
expresses its appreciation to the State party for its elaborate and
thorough report, which has been prepared in accordance with the Committee's
guidelines, and for engaging in a constructive dialogue with the Committee
through a highly qualified delegation. The Committee regrets, however,
that the third periodic report, which was due in 1992, was submitted
only after considerable delay and the Committee therefore did not have
the opportunity to re-establish its dialogue with France for nearly
10 years. The Committee notes with satisfaction that the information
provided in the report, and that orally submitted by the delegation
in reply to both written and oral questions, enabled the Committee to
obtain a good understanding of the actual compliance by France with
the obligations undertaken under the International Covenant on Civil
and Political Rights. The Committee appreciates the considerable written
information provided by the Government after the discussion in answer
to issues raised by members of the Committee.
B. Factors and difficulties affecting the implementation of the Covenant
3. The Committee
finds that reservations and declarations made by France when ratifying
the Covenant and consequent non-reporting on many issues related to
such reservations and declarations, which may bear directly or indirectly
on the enjoyment of Covenant rights, make it difficult to assess fully
and comprehensively the situation in regard to human rights in France.
C. Positive aspects
4. The Committee
notes with satisfaction the institution and functioning of the Consultative
Commission on Human Rights which includes participation by non-governmental
organizations and serves as an independent consultative body.
5. The Committee
welcomes the recent measures taken by France to promote equality of
men and women in the context of article 3 of the Covenant. The Committee
also notes the adoption of the Act of 22 November 1992 which aims to
prevent and combat sexual harassment by an employer. The Committee appreciates
the rapid rise in the proportion of women in public service posts.
6. The Committee
welcomes the announcement made by the French delegation during the consideration
of the report that the practice of deportation of groups of illegal
immigrants by chartered flights to their home countries, bearing characteristics
of collective expulsion, has stopped since 1 June 1997.
7. The Committee
notes that article 55 of the Constitution of France provides for the
direct applicability of the International Covenant on Civil and Political
Rights and its primacy over domestic law. The Committee welcomes the
extension of this principle to administrative jurisdictions by the decision
of the Conseil d'Etat dated 20 October 1989.
8. The Committee
notes with appreciation that a referendumn, in compliance with article
1 of the Covenant, is scheduled to be held in the overseas territory
of New Caledonia in 1998 for the people of that territory to decide
on their future political status.
9. The Committee
takes note of the establishment of a Liaison Committee in the framework
of the United Nations Decade for Human Rights Education.
D. Subjects of concern and the Committee's recommendations
10. The Committee
is concerned that no specific mechanism exists in France to ensure that
the views expressed by the Human Rights Committee on individual communications
under the Optional Protocol are complied with. Therefore:
suggests that a mechanism be established for this purpose.
11. The Committee
is concerned that in some overseas territories, such as Mayotte and
New Caledonia, personal status is determined by religious or customary
law, which might in some situations lead to discriminatory attitudes
and decisions, especially against women. Therefore:
recommends that the State party undertake a comprehensive study to review
the compatibility of the personal status of women in Mayotte, New Caledonia
and other overseas territories with the provisions of the Covenant,
particularly article 3, and, if needed, take appropriate measures to
eliminate all existing inequalities.
12. The Committee
is concerned at the prevailing malaise in the magistracy and the legal
profession concerning the independence of the judiciary and of the prosecutors.
In this regard, the Committee welcomes the information provided by the
delegation to the effect that a commission has recently reported and
made recommendations on this issue.
13. The Committee
is obliged to observe that the Amnesty Acts of November 1988 and January
1990 for New Caledonia are incompatible with the obligation of France
to investigate alleged violations of human rights.
14. While acknowledging
the efforts undertaken and the successful results obtained by the State
party during the period under review in combating discrimination against
women, the Committee is concerned at the low proportion of women appointed
as senior officials in the public administration at both local and central
urges the State party to pursue active measures for the realization
of women's rights, especially by taking measures to achieve the equal
representation of women at all levels of the public administration and
to prevent discrimination against workers with family responsibilities.
15. The Committee
is concerned at existing procedures of investigating human rights abuses
committed by the police. It is also concerned at the failure or reluctance
of prosecutors to apply the law on investigating human rights violations
where law enforcement officers are concerned, and at the delays and
unreasonably lengthy proceedings in investigating and prosecuting alleged
human rights violations involving law enforcement officers. Therefore:
recommends that the State party take appropriate measures to fully guarantee
that all investigations and prosecutions are undertaken in full compliance
with the provisions of articles 2, paragraph 3, 9 and 14 of the Covenant.
16. The Committee
is seriously concerned at the number and serious nature of the allegations
it has received of ill-treatment by law enforcement officials of detainees
and other persons who come into conflictual contact with them, including
unnecessary use of firearms resulting in a number of deaths, the risk
of such ill-treatment being much greater in the case of foreigners and
immigrants. It is also concerned at the reported increase in the number
of suicides in detention centres. The Committee is concerned that in
most cases there is little, if any, investigation of complaints of such
ill-treatment by the internal administration of the police and the gendarmerie
nationale, resulting in virtual impunity. The Committee is concerned
that no independent mechanism exists to receive individual complaints
from detainees. Therefore:
recommends that the State party take appropriate measures to remedy
this state of affairs and, inter alia, reduce the level of use
of solitary confinement. The Committee also recommends that the State
party establish an independent mechanism to monitor detention centres
and to receive and deal with individual complaints of ill-treatment
by law enforcement officials. The Committee urges the State party to
introduce in the training of law enforcement officials at all levels
a comprehensive course in human rights along the lines suggested in
the United Nations training manual for law enforcement officers. (Human
Rights and Law Enforcement: A Manual on Human Rights Training for the
17. The Committee
is concerned about the frequent resort to and length of pre-trial detention.
It is a matter of particular concern to the Committee that the length
of pre-trial detention should be high in case of juveniles. This would
constitute violation of article 9, paragraph 3, and 14, paragraphs 2
and 3 (c), of the Covenant. The Committee is also concerned that the
right to legal counsel may not be available to a juvenile in certain
recommends that measures be taken to reduce the length of pre-trial
detention and to ensure legal aid to juveniles in legal proceedings.
18. The Committee
is concerned that the powers of the gendarmerie nationale, which
is basically a military corps, when operating in a civilian public order
situation are wider than those of the ñpolice. Therefore:
recommends that the State party consider repealing or modifying the
decree dated 22 July 1943 so as to reduce the powers of the gendarmerie
nationale with respect to the use of firearms in public order situations,
with a view to harmonizing them with those of the police.
19. The Committee
is concerned that in order to exercise the right to conscientious objection
to military service, which is a part of freedom of conscience under
article 18 of the Covenant, the application must be made in advance
of the conscript's entry into military service and that the right cannot
be exercised thereafter. Moreover, the Committee notes that the length
of alternative service is twice as long as military service and that
this may raise issues of compatibility with article 18 of the Covenant.
20. The Committee
is concerned that the treatment given by the State party to asylum seekers
does not appear to comply with the provisions of the Covenant. The Committee
is furthermore concerned at the reported instances of asylum seekers
not being allowed to disembark from ships at French ports, without being
given an opportunity to assert their individual claims; such practices
raise issues of compatibility with article 12, paragraph 2, of the Covenant.
However, the Committee welcomes the fact that France is considering
the abolition of such practices.
21. The Committee
is particularly concerned by the restrictive definition of the concept
of "persecution" of refugees used by the French authorities as it does
not take into account possible persecution by non-State actors. Therefore:
recommends that the State party adopt a wider interpretation of "persecution"
to include non-State actors.
22. The Committee
is concerned that the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner
for Refugees (UNHCR) has no right on its own of access to the various
places where persons applying for asylum or waiting deportation are
recommends that UNHCR should be able to visit these places whenever
it thinks fit without any obstruction or hindrance.
23. The Committee
is concerned about the continued application of the anti-terrorist laws
of 2 September 1986 and 16 December 1992 which provide for a centralized
court with prosecutors having special powers of arrest, search and prolonged
detention in police custody for up to four days (twice the normal length),
and according to which an accused does not have the same rights in the
determination of guilt as in the ordinary courts. The Committee is furthermore
concerned that the accused has no right to contact a lawyer during the
initial 72 hours of detention in police custody. The Committee is concerned
that there is no appeal provided for against the decisions of the special
court. The Committee regrets that the State party did not provide information
about which authority in practice takes the decision whether a case
is handled under the ordinary criminal law or under the anti-terrorist
laws, and about the role played by the police in this decision. The
Committee has now been given information as regards statistics on trials
concluded under the anti-terrorist laws, but it is informed that many
hundreds of people are being detained, investigated and tried for committing
acts of terrorism or related offences. Therefore, in the circumstances:
would recommend that anti-terrorist laws, which appear to be necessary
to combat terrorism, be brought fully into conformity with the requirements
of articles 9 and 14 of the Covenant.
24. The Committee
takes note of the declaration made by France concerning the prohibition,
prescribed under article 27 of the Covenant, to deny ethnic, religious
or linguistic minorities the right, in community with members of their
group, to enjoy their own culture, to profess and practise their own
religion or to use their own language. The Committee has taken note
of the avowed commitment of France to respect and ensure that all individuals
enjoy equal rights, regardless of their origin. The Committee is, however,
unable to agree that France is a country in which there are no ethnic,
religious or linguistic minorities. The Committee wishes to recall in
this respect that the mere fact that equal rights are granted to all
individuals and that all individuals are equal before the law does not
preclude the existence in fact of minorities in a country, and their
entitlement to the enjoyment of their culture, the practice of their
religion or the use of their language in community with other members
of their group.
25. The Committee
is concerned that the Civil Code establishes a different minimum age
for marriage for girls (15) and for boys (18) and that it sets such
a low age for girls. It is also concerned that the Civil Code specifies
that only the father can make declaration of birth of his child. Furthermore,
the Committee is concerned that in some situations children born out
of wedlock might not have their right to succession fully recognized.
recommends that the minimum age of marriage for girls be raised. It
also suggests that the State party amend its Civil Code to allow mothers
to make the declaration of birth of her child. Furthermore, the Committee
recommends that all children born out of wedlock be given the same succession
rights as children born in wedlock.
26. The Committee
is concerned at the absence of an independent complaint mechanism for
the protection and enforcement of respect for human rights, such as
a national human rights commission. Therefore:
strongly recommends that an institutional mechanism be established by
the Government of France for receiving complaints of violations of human
rights, including all forms of discrimination, with the power to determine
whether such complaints are justified, to act as conciliator between
the parties and to award compensation.
27. The Committee
recommends that the State party submit its next report in time and that
the report include a comprehensive assessment of the implementation
of the provisions of the Covenant, including in particular articles
9 and 14, and details of the cultural, religious and linguistic rights
of ethnic groups and inhabitants of the overseas territories. The Committee
would welcome reconsideration by France of its reservations and declarations
to the Covenant.
28. The Committee
draws to the attention of the Government of France the provisions of
paragraph 6 (a) of the guidelines regarding the form and contents of
periodic reports by States parties, and requests accordingly that its
next periodic report, due on 31 December 2000, contain material which
responds to all the questions raised in the present concluding observations.
The Committee further requests that these concluding observations be
widely disseminated among the public at large in all parts of France.