Brussels (Brussels Morning) Six French non-governmental organisations launched a landmark class-action lawsuit on Wednesday, taking the government to court over alleged systemic discrimination by police officers carrying out identity checks, AP.reported.
The NGOs, including Human Rights Watch and Amnesty International, rather than target individual police officers, contend that the French police is using systematic racial profiling in selecting those it subjects to identity checks, and that it is primarily focusing on black people and people of Arabian descent.
It is the first class-action discrimination lawsuit in France that is based on colour or supposed ethnic origins. Ben Achour, one of the lawyers working on the case, explained that the 2016 law granting organisations the right to take class-action lawsuits requires the NGOs to file a notice, allowing the authorities four months to respond in a satisfactory manner. After the four months are up, and if the suing parties have not been satisfied, the case will go to court.
“It’s revolutionary, because we’re going to speak for hundreds of thousands, even a million people,” Achour declared. The organisations are representing mostly minorities who are second- or third- generation French citizens, but visibly retain their ethnic heritage. “The group is brown and black,” Achour said.
Instead of monetary compensation for the victims, the NGOs are seeking reforms, specifically changes in the law governing identity checks. They claim that the current law is too broad and allows for no police accountability, because the actions of participating officers cannot be traced, while the individuals stopped during identity checks are left humiliated and angry.