FIACAT and ACAT France written statement on UPR - France

June 2008

[English] [français]

Eighth session

Written statement from the International Federation of Action by Christians for the Abolition of Torture (FIACAT), a non-governmental organization with special consultative status, and ACAT France, regarding agenda item 6 of the eighth session of the Human Rights Council (2-18 June 2008)

First Universal Periodic Review (UPR) of France [1]

The contribution to the first Universal Periodic Review of France from the International Federation of Action by Christians for the Abolition of Torture (FIACAT) came in the form of a report on detention centers, the right to asylum and dangerous repatriation.

In the words of Resolution 5/1 [2] of the Human Rights Council, “States are encouraged to prepare the information they submit through a broad consultation process at the national level with all relevant stakeholders”. FIACAT wishes to point out that French civil society was only consulted during a meeting organized by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs on 15 February 2008 when the report had already been drafted.

1. Concerning prisons:

FIACAT is pleased to note the precise nature of questions put to France concerning:

- the difficulty of access to a lawyer by a person in custody on suspicion of terrorism (Mexico) ;

- the nomination procedure for the Controller General of Prisons (Brazil) and a date for this nomination (Switzerland) ;

- the consequences on prison over-population of the law of 10 August 2007 to combat re-offending by adults and juveniles (Switzerland);

- allegations, made against the forces of law and order but not pursued in the courts, of acts of torture or maltreatment (Germany);

- measures taken to reduce prison over-population (United Kingdom), maltreatment in places of detention (Sweden) and how to explain prison over-population with a 22.3% increase the number of detainees since 2002 in a country like France where human rights form part of its founding principles (Haiti).

However, the very general answers received from France did not provide all the information requested, notably on the following points:

France could have insisted, as it did in the case of crimes of violence against women, on the need to change the mindset of police, legal and prison system representatives in charge of detention centers, such that detainees enjoy the same rights as non-detainees, except the right to come and go: the right to access to psychiatric care, the right to protection in the case of allegations of violence and the right to lodge a complaint. These considerations require no financial input, simply the will to bring human rights into play in situations of detention and to raise general awareness to this.

So long as France’s prison population continues to rise with regard to the number of places available, even with an imprisonment rate lower than the average amongst neighboring countries, the problem of prison over-population and its consequences will not be resolved simply by increasing prison capacity. At 1 May, official prison figures stood at 63, 645 persons incarcerated for 50, 631 places. FIACAT would have welcomed a pledge to develop alternative methods of punishment, looking ahead to the bill on the prison system whose adoption was postponed and which has yet to be addressed at the National Advisory Commission for Human Rights (CNCDH), despite several requests.

France has yet to answer the question on the use in prisons of the Taser gun, which, according to the United Nations Committee against Torture (CAT) [3], constitutes a form of torture because of the acute pain it causes, despite its non-lethal nature.

2. Concerning asylum and dangerous repatriation

FIACAT is pleased to note the precise nature of the questions put to France and of the recommendations concerning:

- measures guaranteeing that failed asylum seekers will not be sent back to a country where their human rights may be violated (Chile) ;

- effective measures for the implementation of article 3 of the Convention Against Torture for persons arriving from countries classed as safe (Czech Republic) ;

- the measures adopted in response to concerns expressed by the Committee on the Rights of the Child, the Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination and the United Nations High Commission for Refugees (UNHCR) over the time taken to re-unite refugee families (Czech Republic);

- the disregard for temporary measures put in place by the Committee Against Torture and international obligations not to send individuals back to countries where they risk having their human rights violated, including by torture and maltreatment (Netherlands).

FIACAT regrets that the French delegation gave no response to the questions on asylum and dangerous repatriation, notably:

The French delegation made no mention of the disregard for temporary measures put in place by the Committee against Torture (CAT), nor of the reasons, which drove the French government to refuse twice to comply with these measures.

France did not reply to the specific questions about the concrete measures to ensure that no person can be sent back to a country where they risk being tortured or maltreated.
FIACAT would reiterate its concerns over this matter and point out that in 2007 [4] France used “priority processing” to deal with 28% of asylum applications, a procedure which allows an asylum seeker to be sent back to their country of origin, even before their appeal against their rejected asylum application (assessed within 15 days) has been considered.

Finally, it is disappointing that France did not answer the question on the lengthy procedures for reuniting refugees with their families, especially in the light of France’s acknowledgement in its UPR report to the Council that “the Children’s Ombudsman continues to note long administrative delays in the reunification of [refugees’] families. These delays seem to be caused by shortage of consular staff and to a certain lack of coherence in administrative procedures which could be improved” (§109).

Consequently, FIACAT requests that the French government accept recommendations 5, 15, 16, 17, 18, 19, 22, 23, 24, 25, 27.


[1] ACAT- France (Action by Christians for the Abolition of Torture), a member of FIACAT, shares the views expressed in this declaration.

[2] Resolution 5/1 of the Human Rights Council, on Institution-building of the United Nations Human Rights Council, 18 June 2007

[3] Recommendations considered in Portugal, CAT/C/PRT/CO/4 of 22 November 2007, paragraph 14.

[4] Source : OFPRA 2007 Annual Report (French office for the protection of refugees and stateless persons)

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