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ORIGINAL FRENCH ARTICLE: La LDH, la Cimade et le SM pour la fin de "l’internement" des étrangers

by Marie Barbier - dans l’édition de l’Humanité du vendredi 11 juillet 2008

Human rights organizations for an end to the "internment" of immigrants

Translated Thursday 31 July 2008, by Edward Lamb

La Ligue des droits de l’Homme (LDH) or League for Human Rights, la Cimade (Comité inter mouvements auprès des évacués) [1] and the Syndicat de la magistrature (SM), French magistrates’ union, have demanded, in a report, the end of "administrative internement" of immigrants.

We witnessed the arrival of a hundred or so policemen of the elite Compagnies Républicaines de Sécurité (CRS) [2]. Armed with clubs and shields, they came towards us, herding us into small, compact groups of ten to fifteen persons. The CRS clobbered us at random, without uttering a word. The scene took place during the night of the 27th to the 28th of February 2008 at the Administrative Retention Centre (CRA) of Vincennes, four months prior to its total destruction by fire.

Yesterday, the Human Rights League (LDH), the French magistrates’ union (SM) and the Syndicat des avocats français (SAF), or French attorneys’ union, published an damning report concerning the behaviour of the policemen during those incidents. Their inquiry mission denounced the « disproportionate » nature of the police intervention « far from the public eye » and the abusive use of electronic Taser pistols. The events, as described in the report, took place on February 11th, around 11 p.m. Some fifteen men were watching television in the common room when the policemen ordered them to go back to their rooms for a "head count". One of the wardens imperiously turned off the television, thus provoking the detainees’ anger. « Although a commonplace event, that was the spark that lit the fire, and the result of months of frustrations and "built up" tensions », Fanny Cortot of the French attorneys’ union (SAF) pointed out. Ever since the beginning of this year, signs of distress have multiplied : suicide attempts, hunger strikes, self-inflicted wounds, deliberate fires…

On the evening of February 11th, things started deteriorating with the "head count". Scuffling, provocations and insults from the police finally exasperated the internees; a chair was shattered, insults were exchanged. Five CRS paddy wagons were sent in reinforcement, with sixty riot policemen aboard, armed with helmets, shields and clubs. The detainees took refuge in their rooms. From that moment on, everything happened very quickly: four men, trapped by the CRS, forced their way into a room seeking shelter. Without any regard to the confinement, a policeman fired his Taser pistol at a detainee, less than a yard away. The man lost consciousness, only to revive at the hospital, with several stitches in his scalp. The Taser shot ricocheted hitting another inmate. His arm numbed by the shock, the latter was unable to protect himself from the clubs and his head thus took the policemen’s blows. He, too, was hospitalized.

Both victims of the said police brutalities have registered complaints. In April, five police officers were interrogated on the grounds of a public inquiry into these incidents. They were later released. Various organizations have assured us that they will remain « extremely vigilant » as to the legal pursuits concerning these incidents. More generally, they recommend « legislation » on the use of stun guns, « improved training programmes for policemen serving in those compounds » and guarantees for « decent living conditions and availability of medical care » for people so detained. The man who was injured by the stun gun shock, in February, has since been deported.

Translator’s notes :

[1French NGO founded at the beginning of the WWII by French Protestant student groups to give assistance and support to people uprooted by war, Dictionary of the Ecumenical Movement, p. 188.

[2Literally speaking : Republican Security Companies; they represent the riot control forces and general reserve of the French National Police.

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