The State Department web site below is a permanent electronic archive of information released prior to January 20, 2001.  Please see www.state.gov for material released since President George W. Bush took office on that date.  This site is not updated so external links may no longer function.  Contact us with any questions about finding information.

NOTE: External links to other Internet sites should not be construed as an endorsement of the views contained therein.

Department Seal

flag
bar


TITLE:  FRANCE HUMAN RIGHTS PRACTICES, 1993                             
DATE:  JANUARY 31, 1994
AUTHOR:  U.S. DEPARTMENT OF STATE

                        FRANCE


France is a democratic republic with constitutional provisions 
for human rights, freely functioning political parties, regular 
elections, and universal suffrage.

The military and security apparatus consists of the three 
traditional military services, a 91,000-strong gendarmerie 
(national police/paramilitary force), and police forces in 
major cities.  These forces are under civilian control and 
generally are highly professional.

France has a developed and diversified economy and a skilled 
labor force.  It has substantial agricultural resources and a 
modern industrial system based on a mixture of public and 
private enterprises.

The authorities generally respect human rights and civil 
liberties, which are provided for by the 1958 Constitution.  
Instances of individual wrongdoing by police or other officials 
are generally investigated and dealt with according to law.  
Responsibility for encouraging respect for human rights in 
France and its overseas departments and territories is shared 
among several senior officials, including the Minister of State 
for Social and Urban Affairs; the Minister of Foreign Affairs; 
and the Minister-Delegate for Humanitarian Action and Human 
Rights.

The Government has consistently condemned and pursued 
perpetrators of sporadic acts of violence against ethnic and 
religious minorities and of discrimination against such groups.

In 1993 a lively debate arose over how best to control illegal 
immigration while preserving fundamental human rights and civil 
liberties.  The final text of the constitutional amendment 
(ratified in November) to accomplish this reform preserves the 
basic right to political asylum.  However, under its terms the 
Government will no longer be obligated to review requests from 
individuals whose applications have already been reviewed and 
rejected by other European Community members that have signed 
the intergovernmental Shengen Accord, aimed at promoting the 
free movement of people among the signatory countries.  Some 
human rights groups, including the French chapter of Amnesty 
International, criticized the removal of the obligation to 
consider all requests for political asylum.


RESPECT FOR HUMAN RIGHTS

Section 1  Respect for the Integrity of the Person, Including 
           Freedom from:

     a.  Political and Other Extrajudicial Killing

French authorities do not engage in political killing.  In 
instances of extrajudicial killing from excessive use of force, 
there are well-established means for legal redress.  In April 
there were three instances in which police officers apparently 
used excessive force in the shootings of three minority 
suspects, two of which resulted in fatalities.  In these cases, 
one policeman was charged with involuntary manslaughter, one 
with voluntary manslaughter, and the other remains under 
investigation.  None of these three cases was concluded by 
year's end.

     b.  Disappearance

French authorities do not engage in abduction or secret arrests.

     c.  Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman, or Degrading 
         Treatment or Punishment

Torture or cruel, inhuman, or degrading treatment or punishment 
are forbidden by law and are generally prosecuted.  In the 
occasional instances of alleged police brutality, 
administrative and judicial mechanisms exist for determining 
guilt and punishing transgressors.

The Council of Europe Commission on the Prevention of Torture 
released a report in January urging the Government to tighten 
its procedures to protect those in custody.  The study, 
conducted in 1991 with the Government's cooperation, found that 
suspects ran a "not inconsiderable risk of being mistreated" 
while in police detention.  According to the report, 
mistreatment included such abuse as detainees being struck by 
fists, subjected to psychological pressure, and denied food or 
medicine.  At the same time, the Commission said that it found 
no indications of serious mistreatment or torture.  The report 
also criticized two prisons, at Nice and Baumettes, for being 
overcrowded and lacking activity programs.  It concluded that 
prison conditions were inhuman and degrading.  The Government 
responded that, since the report's release, it had reduced 
overcrowding at both prisons and had opened a new prison near 
Nice.


     d.  Arbitrary Arrest, Detention, or Exile

French law provides for freedom from arbitrary arrest and 
imprisonment.  No direct equivalent of habeas corpus exists in 
the legal system, but cases must be referred to a magistrate 
for investigation within 4 days; 2 days for drug and terrorism 
cases.

A Penal Code introduced in 1993 is intended to strengthen the 
rights of the defendants.  Under the Code, suspects are 
required to be informed of their rights in a language  they 
understand.  The Government published an explanatory brochure 
in eight languages to be given to those in custody.  The Code 
guarantees a suspect the right of immediate access to a 
physician and access to an attorney within 20 hours, 
immediately in the case of those below the age of 16.  Pretrial 
confinement in the case of felonies is not limited.  This 
pretrial period can be lengthy, depending upon the seriousness 
and complexity of the case.  Evidence is gathered and assessed 
by an independent examining judge.  Defendants are free to 
request and present evidence during this investigatory period.

The judiciary plays a determining role in the detention 
process.  French authorities are not reported to have detained 
any person for political reasons.  No provisions for exile 
exists.

French judicial practice in narcotics cases commonly assesses a 
"customs fine" in addition to a jail sentence.  These fines are 
based on estimates of the "value" of the contraband and tend to 
exceed by far any financial assets of the convicted smuggler.  
Upon conclusion of the mandated jail sentence, a prisoner is 
not released unless he has paid the fine.  Those who cannot pay 
the fine--the bulk of those affected--are then kept in 
detention under a legal stipulation that might reasonably be 
considered arbitrary.  The length of the detention is not 
specific but depends on the whims of customs officials, who use 
the threat of continued detention to extract the largest 
possible partial settlement from the detained prisoner and his 
or her family.  The upper limit of such detention is 2 years.

     e.  Denial of Fair Public Trial

The right to fair public trial is provided by law and respected 
in practice.  The new Penal Code reinforced the presumption of 
innocence by introducing several major innovations.  The 
concept of indictment, which in France was often incorrectly 
viewed as synonymous with guilt, was abandoned.  Further, 
should the State determine that there is insufficient evidence 
to bring charges, a suspect may demand publication of that 
decision in newspapers or on television.

For misdemeanors, pretrial confinement--which is very rare--is 
limited normally to 4 months, with extensions in special 
circumstances of approximately 8 to 12 months.  Although all 
drug-related crimes are technically classified as misdemeanors, 
those convicted of serious narcotics offenses are subject to 
penalties otherwise reserved for felonies.

Those found guilty of some drug offenses may be sentenced to up 
to 20 years' imprisonment.  Trials are normally open and 
public, but provisions exist for the defense to request a 
closed proceeding.  All felonies are tried before juries, and a 
defendant does not have the right to refuse a jury trial.  The 
press has free access to records of court proceedings, although 
the prosecutor may not disclose information about cases being 
tried or investigated.

French law provides for the right of appeal for those convicted 
of misdemeanors.  Those convicted of felonies may appeal to the 
Court of Cassation only on procedural grounds.

The 1992 Country Report cited a case in which the former 
National Assembly President was accused of influence peddling 
in his former capacity as Socialist Party treasurer.  The 
official subsequently filed suit against the judge, claiming 
that the indictment was politically motivated.  That case had 
not been heard at year's end; the official was reelected to 
public office.

France has no political prisoners.

     f.  Arbitrary Interference with Privacy, Family, Home, or 
         Correspondence

French law provides for freedom from invasion of privacy, and 
this freedom is respected in practice.  The search of a private 
residence may be carried out by police if there is reason to 
believe a crime is taking place within.  The search may be 
carried out only between 6 a.m. and 9 p.m., except in special 
circumstances, such as in drug cases, when the search may be 
undertaken at any time.  Telephone conversations may be 
monitored by authority of a court order in conjunction with 
criminal proceedings.  However, no court order is required in 
national security cases.

Section 2  Respect for Civil Liberties, Including:

     a.  Freedom of Speech and Press

Freedom of speech and press are guaranteed by law and respected 
in practice.  Newspapers and magazines are free of government 
control and present views ranging across the political 
spectrum.  Under French law, high government officials may seek 
to sue media representatives for defamation.  In practice, this 
provision is rarely invoked and does not interfere with free 
expression.  There are three state-owned and three private 
television networks, in addition to private cable channels.  
Hundreds of private radio stations offer a wide array of 
independent, uncensored programming in French and several other 
languages.  No censorship of books or other publications 
occurs.  Academic freedom of expression is respected in both 
public and private academic institutions.

     b.  Freedom of Peaceful Assembly and Association

Freedom of peaceful assembly and association is widely 
respected, although--except for a specific reference to trade 
unions--it is not mentioned in the Constitution.  Groups 
wishing to organize public meetings, protest marches, or 
demonstrations must declare their intent to do so to local 
authorities.  Normally these authorities raise no objection to 
either political or nonpolitical gatherings.  While the 
decision to deny permission for a demonstration rests within 
the discretion of local officials, a denial may be appealed to 
the Council of State.  Private associations, whether political 
or apolitical, must register with the prefecture in the 
department in which they are established, but they do not 
require the prefecture's authorization to exist.  Such 
registration is considered routine in France.  Informal 
associations, such as those without officers, bylaws, or dues, 
need not register.

     c.  Freedom of Religion

All religions are tolerated.  Roman Catholics are by far the 
largest religious group.  Separation of church and state is 
guaranteed by law, although both private and parochial schools 
receive substantial subsidies from the Ministry of National 
Education.  In keeping with the secular nature of French public 
school, it is forbidden to wear religious symbols.  This law 
conflicts with the desire of some Muslim girls to wear 
headscarves, and four girls were denied entry to one school for 
insisting on wearing the scarves.  Some Muslim groups 
consequently claimed that the girls were being denied the right 
to practice their religion.

     d.  Freedom of Movement Within the Country, Foreign 
         Travel, Emigration, and Repatriation

The law provides for freedom of internal movement, foreign 
travel, emigration, and repatriation.  All lawful resident 
aliens, including refugees, may undertake foreign travel and, 
in most instances, return to France.

France has a long history as a haven for refugees and political 
asylum seekers.  Thus, there was considerable debate concerning 
a proposed law designed to control illegal immigration.  A key 
element of the law would have permitted France to refuse asylum 
requests from individuals whose cases had previously been 
reviewed and found without merit by other European Community 
signatories of the Schengen Accord.  After the Constitutional 
Court ruled in August that this measure was unconstitutional, 
the Government decided to initiate a revision that will 
preserve the basic right of political asylum while bringing the 
Constitution in line with the Schengen Accord.  The revision 
was adopted by the French Government in November.

In another action reflecting France's growing concern about 
illegal immigration and asylum abuse, the Government approved a 
law in May amending France's nationality code.  The measure 
restricts the right of those born in France of non-French 
parents to claim French citizenship.  Previous law provided 
that citizenship be immediately accorded to those born in 
France when they turned 18.  Under the new law, which applies 
retroactively to those born before its enactment, applicants 
will have to apply for citizenship when they are between 16 and 
21 years of age.  It is expected that the new provision will be 
largely a bureaucratic formality, except for those applicants 
who have been convicted of major crimes and could thereby be 
ruled ineligible for citizenship.

Section 3  Respect for Political Rights:  The Right of Citizens 
           to Change Their Government

French citizens have the right and ability to change their 
government by peaceful means, not only through the election of 
the President, the National Assembly, and local officials, but 
also through amendment of the Constitution by means of national 
referendum.

While the French do not entirely accept the notion of 
"indigenous" peoples, an attempt is made to take local 
traditions into account within the administration of some 
French overseas territories where distinct ethnic groups have 
preserved such traditions and customs.

Varying special statutes--applicable to all citizens resident 
within the respective territories, regardless of ethnic 
origin--govern the "collective territory" of Mayotte and the 
territories of French Polynesia, Wallis and Futuna, and New 
Caledonia.  The citizens of these territories determine their 
legal and political relationships to France by means of 
referendums.

In spite of differences in their respective administrative 
statutes--and resulting differences in local government 
entities--French citizens within the territories participate 
fully in the political process, electing both deputies and 
senators to the French Parliament.  All French citizens who 
have reached the age of 18 may vote, except for most convicted 
criminals, bankrupt persons, and persons certified to be 
mentally incompetent.  These provisions are fully respected in 
practice.

Within France itself, the Government has over the years granted 
greater local autonomy to the Basques and to Corsica, while 
resisting isolated calls for independence.

The French President (who serves as Head of State) is directly 
elected every 7 years through a system of universal suffrage.  
France has a bicameral parliamentary system with a National 
Assembly and a Senate.  Representatives to the National 
Assembly are directly elected every 5 years, unless the 
Government is dissolved, in which case elections may be called 
sooner.  Senators are elected through a system of indirect 
elections and serve 9-year terms.  Voting is by secret ballot.  
The Prime Minister (Head of Government) is selected from the 
parliamentary majority by the President.

France has an open multiparty system.  National legislative 
elections in March replaced the Socialist government, elected 
in 1988, with a center-right coalition.  A wide variety of 
political parties compete freely in regularly scheduled 
national and local elections.  Many special interest 
groups--business, labor, veterans, consumer advocates, 
ecologists, and others--organize freely and regularly support 
candidates for elective office.

There are no restrictions in law on the participation of women 
in government and politics.  Women are active in all facets of 
French politics but political and social tradition has resulted 
in lower percentages of women than men being elected to public 
office, especially at the national level.  In 1993, 3 of 30 
cabinet members, 16 of 320 senators, and 35 of 573 deputies in 
the lower house were women.  In an effort to advance women's 
political prospects, some parties have established quotas to 
guarantee women a certain number of positions on electoral 
lists or in party management.

Section 4  Governmental Attitude Regarding International and 
           Nongovernmental Investigation of Alleged Violations 
           of Human Rights

A wide variety of local and international human rights 
organizations operate freely in France.  The French National 
Consultative Commission on Human Rights, which monitors 
complaints and advises the Government on policies and 
legislation, is an independent body within the Prime Minister's 
Office.

Section 5  Discrimination Based on Race, Sex, Religion, 
           Disability, Language, or Social Status

Statutes ban discrimination based on race, religion, sex, 
ethnic background, or political opinion.

     Women

The Government strongly condemns and vigorously attempts to 
prevent violence and abuse against women, and such violence, 
including wife beating, is prohibited under the Penal Code.  In 
1992 a law was added to the Code providing penalties of up to 1 
year in prison and up to approximately $20,000 in fines for 
supervisors convicted of sexually harassing employees.

While the law requires that women receive equal pay for equal 
work, this requirement is not met in many cases.  Women's 
rights groups actively lobby for full implementation of equal 
rights statutes and seek solutions to the increasingly 
publicized phenomenon of violence against women.


     Children

The Government devotes a significant portion of its 
expenditures to children's welfare.  In addition to direct 
expenditures for health and education, it assists families with 
children through a number of allowances.  Some, but not all, 
allowances are based on family income.  There are strict laws 
against child abuse, particularly when committed by a parent or 
guardian.  Associations exist to help minors seek justice in 
cases of mistreatment by parents.

Under a law that prohibits harming children, the Government has 
brought criminal charges against those who perform female 
genital mutilation,   Over the past 10 years, there have been 
15 trials involving more than 30 families.  In November the 
Government launched a public information campaign against the 
practice, which included hanging posters in maternity clinics, 
doctors' offices, social centers, and public housing that 
warned female sexual mutilation is punishable by imprisonment.

     National/Racial/Ethnic Minorities

Anti-immigrant sentiment continued to provoke incidents of 
racism, including occasional attacks by "skinheads", directed 
at the large Arab/Muslim and black African immigrant 
communities, as well as at the Jewish population.  The 
Government and a wide spectrum of public opinion have 
consistently condemned such incidents.  The law since 1991 has 
required that the National Consultative Commission on Human 
Rights publish an annual report on "The Struggle Against Racism 
and Xenophobia."  According to the latest report, issued in 
March, that polls indicated that 89 percent of French citizens 
interviewed believed that racial discrimination was a "fairly" 
or "very" widespread problem in France.  The report also found, 
however, that the actual number of racial and anti-Semitic 
attacks had fallen in comparison with the previous year.

In September the Minister of Interior announced the creation of 
a national organization charged with fighting racism.  
Coordinated by the Interior Ministry, the group is to include  
government Cabinet ministers and members of the National 
Assembly as well as representatives from churches and 
antiracist organizations.  The effort is to include similar 
organizations at the department level.  The Minister of 
Interior at the same time called for a ban on neo-Nazi and 
other racist organizations.  At year's end, no governmental 
action had been taken on this recommendation.


Arbitrary identity checks by French police officers of members 
of minority groups sometimes have a tendency to transform 
blacks and people from the Maghreb countries into "suspects."  
While any individual in France is subject to identity checks, 
some human rights groups claim that members of minorities are 
stopped for questioning more frequently than those of 
nonminorities.

The Government seeks to encourage immigrants to adopt French 
traditions, laws, and language.  Anything that emphasizes 
cultural and religious differences, e.g., the wearing of 
headscarves by Muslim schoolgirls (see Section 2.c.) is seen as 
working against integration and French cultural homogeneity.  
The French assert the primacy of the French language in the 
educational system.

     Religious Minorities

A number of Muslim and Jewish graves were desecrated during 
1993.  Approximately 20 arrests were made.

In February President Mitterrand issued a decree establishing a 
National Remembrance Day in memory of anti-Semitic persecution 
committed under the Vichy Government of 1940-44.  President 
Mitterrand resisted calls to issue an apology to French Jews on 
the grounds that the Vichy regime was not the "true" French 
government during the war, but he decided this year no longer 
to lay an Armistice Day wreath at the grave of World War I hero 
and Vichy leader Marshal Petain.  Addressing questions relating 
to France's Vichy past remains difficult for many government 
officials and much of French society.  Former French police 
official Rene Bousquet was assassinated on June 8 while 
awaiting trial for "crimes against humanity."  In 1942 Bousquet 
organized the roundup of more than 12,000 French Jews and their 
deportation to concentration camps.  His assassin was an 
apparently unbalanced publicity-seeking Frenchman who was 
arrested shortly thereafter.  No Vichy official has yet been 
tried and condemned in French courts for crimes against 
humanity, but the courts cleared the way in October for Paul 
Touvier, a pro-Nazi militia officer accused of ordering the 
murder of Jewish prisoners in 1944, to stand trial in 1994.

There are approximately 3 million Muslims in France, nearly 
one third of whom are French citizens.  The Government created 
the Council for the Reflection of Islam in France in 1990 to 
help integrate Muslims into French society.


     People with Disabilities

A wide range of legislation provides protection for people with 
disabilities.  An extensive program exists to provide special 
education to those with physical or mental disabilities and to 
assist those with emotional problems.  Financial aid is 
provided to families with students who need daily care.  
Handicapped persons over the age of 20 are eligible to receive 
support payments from the Government as well as reductions in 
their income tax. 

Since 1988 France has mandated that disabled persons make up at 
least 6 percent of all public and private enterprises with 20 
or more employees.  The Government will in some cases reimburse 
employers up to 20 percent of the costs of employing someone 
who is handicapped.  A recent government study found that many 
firms are not complying with this requirement and recommended 
strict enforcement mechanisms.  In 1991 the Government 
legislated that new public buildings be made accessible to the 
physically handicapped.  However, the great majority of 
existing buildings were constructed before that date, and it 
remains difficult or impossible for people using wheelchairs to 
enter them.

Section 6  Worker Rights

     a.  The Right of Association

Freedom of association for all trade unions and workers is 
provided by the Constitution.  Although less than 10 percent 
(12 to 15 percent for the public sector; 5 to 6 percent for the 
private sector) of the total work force is unionized, trade 
unions exercise significant economic and political influence.  
They do so primarily through professional works councils and 
legally mandated roles (shared with employers) in administering 
social institutions.  These include social security (health 
care and most retirement systems), the unemplyment insurance 
system, labor courts, and the Economic and Social Council, a 
constitutionally manadated consultative body.

Most unions pride themselves on not being aligned with any 
political party, and all are careful to avoid being stigmatized 
as government influenced.  However, many of the leaders of the 
General Confederation of Labor (CGT) and its unions belong to 
the Communist Party.


Tradition prevents union officials from holding office in 
political parties, but leaders of most non-CGT unions are 
supporters of the Socialist Party.  Supporters of other parties 
are also active in the labor movement.  The unions' 
international activities are not restricted, and all three 
world trade union confederations have French affiliates.  
French workers, including civil servants, are free to strike, 
with a few exceptions in cases where strikes are determined to 
be a threat to public safety.  Given that one-fourth of the 
salaried population works for the Government, the numerous 
public sector strikes receive extensive coverage.  Following a 
2-week Air France strike in November, the airline was forced to 
cancel plans to implement a restructuring program that 
reportedly would have cost 4,000 jobs.

Legal prohibitions exist against retribution toward strikers or 
strike leaders and are effectively enforced.  In fact, the 
Government last year did not even censure prison guards who 
struck illegally.

     b.  The Right to Organize and Bargain Collectively

Workers, including those in the three small export processing 
zones, have the right to organize and bargain collectively.  
French law strictly prohibits antiunion discrimination.  
Amendments added in 1982 require at least annual bargaining in 
the public and private sector on wages, hours, and working 
conditions at both plant and industry levels.  The 1982 law 
does not require that negotiations result in a signed 
contract.  Outside mediators, drawn from the upper ranks of the 
civil service, may impose solutions that are binding unless 
formally rejected by either side within a week.  If no new 
agreement can be reached, the contract from the previous year 
remains valid.  Over 80 percent of France's private sector work 
force is covered by collective bargaining agreements negotiated 
at national or local levels.  Trilateral consultations also 
take place on such subjects as the minimum wage, temporary 
work, social security, and unemployment benefits.  Labor 
tribunals of worker and employer representatives are available 
to resolve complaints.  Employers found guilty of antiunion 
discrimination are required to reinstate workers fired for 
union activities.  The law requires that businesses with more 
than 50 employees have a works council, in which workers are 
consulted on training, working conditions, profit-sharing, and 
similar issues.  Works councils, which are open to both union 
and nonunion employees, are elected every 2 years.


Trade union rights, as provided for in the Constitution, extend 
to France's overseas departments and territories.  Social 
benefits, such as the minimum wage or supplemental retirement 
payments, may be reduced in the overseas departments and 
territories to take into account the local economies.

     c.  Prohibition of Forced or Compulsory Labor

Forced or compulsory labor is prohibited by law, and this 
prohibition is effectively enforced.  In its 1993 report, 
however, the International Labor Organization's Committee of 
Experts questioned the French practice of obliging French 
prisoners to work for private enterprises at less than the 
national minimum wage. 

     d.  Minimum Age for Employment of Children

With a few exceptions for those enrolled in recognized 
apprenticeship programs, children under the age of 16 may not 
be employed.  Generally, work considered arduous or work 
between the hours of 10 p.m. and 5 a.m. may not be performed by 
minors under the age of 18.  Laws prohibiting child employment 
are effectively enforced through periodic checks by labor 
inspectors.

     e.  Acceptable Conditions of Work

France has an administratively determined minimum wage, revised 
whenever the cost-of-living index rises 2 percentage points, 
and it is sufficient to provide a decent standard of living to 
a worker and family.  The wage was administratively adjusted to 
34.83 francs in July, approximately $5.90 at the end of the 
year.  The legal workweek is 39 hours.  In an effort to 
increase employment, overtime is restricted to 9 hours per 
week.  The previously discriminatory law prohibiting women from 
performing arduous or night work, except in certain exempted 
categories such as hospitals and a few service industries, was 
revoked in 1992.  In this regard, France joined other European 
Community signatories in denouncing the ILO Convention 89 
banning night work for women, and in adhering to the new 
nondiscriminatory ILO Convention 171 on night work.

The Ministry of Labor has overall responsibility for policing 
occupational safety and health laws.  Standards are generally 
high and well enforced.  Workers have the right to remove 
themselves from dangerous work situations.  To assist the 
Ministry, the law requires that any enterprise with 50 or more 
employees have an occupational health and safety committee;  
78 percent of all enterprises, covering 80 percent of 
employees, had such committees as of 1991.


[end of document]

flag
bar

Department Seal

Return to 1993 Human Rights Practices report home page.
Return to DOSFAN home page.
This is an official U.S. Government source for information on the WWW. Inclusion of non-U.S. Government links does not imply endorsement of contents.