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TITLE:  FRANCE HUMAN RIGHTS PRACTICES, 1994
AUTHOR:  U.S. DEPARTMENT OF STATE
DATE:  FEBRUARY 1995








                             FRANCE


France is a democratic republic with constitutional provisions 
for human rights, a directly elected president and parliament, 
and an independent judiciary.

The military and security apparatus consists of the three 
traditional military services, a gendarmerie (national police 
and paramilitary force), and municipal police forces in major 
cities.  All are under effective government control.

France's highly developed and diversified economy is primarily 
market-based.

The Constitution extensively provides for human rights, and the 
Government has a good record of investigating and prosecuting 
violations of these provisions.

RESPECT FOR HUMAN RIGHTS

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

     a.  Political and Other Extrajudicial Killing

There were no reports of political or other extrajudicial 
killings.  A police officer who in 1993 was charged with 
involuntary manslaughter for shooting a robbery suspect in the 
course of an arrest received in 1994 a suspended 1-year prison 
sentence.  Still under investigation at year's end were two 
other 1993 cases of police use of force that resulted in death, 
and two 1994 cases.

     b.  Disappearance

There were no reports of disappearance.

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

The law prohibits such treatment or punishment.  While isolated 
instances of police misconduct have occurred, there is no 
evidence of a pattern of such abuses or that the investigation 
of such cases is routinely delayed or left incomplete.

In November a police officer who was charged with assault and 
battery against a doctor from the Central African Republic was 
found innocent; the case is under appeal.

     d.  Arbitrary Arrest, Detention, or Exile

The law provides for freedom from arbitrary arrest and 
imprisonment, and the Government fully respects this.  Police 
must refer arrests to a magistrate within 4 days, or 2 days for 
drug and terrorism cases.  Pretrial confinement is very rare.  
For misdemeanors other than some narcotics offenses, it 
normally is limited to 4 months, but in certain circumstances 
it can be extended by about 8 to 12 months.

In August, after terrorists assassinated 5 French officials in 
Algeria, French police detained 26 resident non-French Muslims 
suspected of supporting Algerian terrorists.  The 26 were held 
several weeks before 20 were deported to Burkino Faso.  French 
human rights groups argued that the detainees' constitutional 
rights were violated in that:  they were never charged with a 
crime; they were not permitted to remain in their own place of 
residence; and those deported were not given a hearing.  The 
Government asserts that the 26 presented an imminent danger to 
public order and security, and that it therefore acted within 
the law.  At least seven deportees appealed to the 
administrative courts; by year's end a court overturned one 
deportation order, involving several defendants, but the 
Government appealed this.  The other cases await decision.

For narcotics smuggling convictions the courts commonly assess 
not only a jail sentence but also a "customs fine" based on the 
contraband's estimated value, which usually exceeds by far any 
financial assets of the convicted smuggler.  Upon conclusion of 
the jail sentence, the prisoner is not released until the fine 
is paid.  Most prisoners cannot pay it, and so are further 
detained for up to 2 years--the period is determined by customs 
officials who, for as long as seems worthwhile, attempt to 
obtain the largest possible partial settlement from the 
detained prisoner and his or her family.

There are no provisions for exile, and it does not occur.

     e.  Denial of Fair Public Trial

The law provides for the right to fair public trial, and the 
authorities respect this.

Trials are normally public, although the defense can request a 
closed proceeding.  All felonies are tried before juries.  The 
press has free access to records of court proceedings, although 
the prosecutor may not disclose information about cases being 
tried or investigated.

The law provides for the right of appeal for those convicted of 
misdemeanors.  Those convicted of felonies may appeal only on 
procedural grounds.

France has no political prisoners.

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

French law provides for freedom from invasion of privacy, and 
the authorities respect this.  Police must obtain a judicial 
warrant in order to search a private residence, except when 
responding to a crime in progress.  They can conduct such a 
search only between 6 a.m. and 9 p.m., except in special 
circumstances such as a crime in progress or a drug case.  
Telephone conversations may be monitored only under a court 
order in conjunction with criminal proceedings, except in 
national security cases.

Section 2  Respect for Civil Liberties, Including:

     a.  Freedom of Speech and Press

The law provides for freedom of speech and press, and the 
Government generally respects this.  However, in August, 
following the terrorist murders of French citizens in Algeria, 
it banned the distribution of five Middle Eastern-oriented 
publications, contending that they encouraged terrorism.  It 
has also banned distribution of a skinhead publication, on the 
grounds that it promoted racist and anti-Semitic violence.  
These bans remained in effect through year's end, with no 
reported protests of them.

There are three state-owned and three private television 
networks, in addition to private cable channels.  Hundreds of 
private radio stations also offer uncensored programming.

Academic freedom is respected.

     b.  Freedom of Peaceful Assembly and Association

The Government does not arbitrarily restrict peaceful assembly 
or association.  Sponsors of public events must give advance 
notification to local authorities, who normally raise no 
objection.  A denial of permission can be appealed to the 
highest administrative court (the Council of State).

     c.  Freedom of Religion

The law provides for separation of church and state, and the 
Government respects this.  In 1989 the highest administrative 
court ruled that the "ostentatious" wearing of headscarves by 
Muslim female students violated a law prohibiting proselytizing 
in schools.  After much media attention--mainly unfavorable--to 
the wearing of such headscarves, in September 1994 the Ministry 
of Education issued a directive that prohibits the wearing of 
"ostentatious political and religious symbols" in schools.  
This does not specify the "symbols" in question, and it leaves 
school administrators with considerable authority to do so.  
Reportedly, authorities in various schools subsequently invoked 
this directive to keep out a total of about 80 students wearing 
such scarves (while several hundred others continue to wear 
them in school).  Some Muslims and Jews are protesting the 
measure.
     
     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, and the Government does 
not hamper these rights.  The Government participates closely 
with the U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees in assisting 
refugees to settle in France or elsewhere.

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

Citizens have the right and ability to change their government 
through periodic free and fair elections, with universal adult 
suffrage and secret balloting.  They also occasionally exercise 
this right through national referendums on amendments to the 
Constitution.

The citizens of the "collective territory" of Mayotte and the 
territories of French Polynesia, Wallis and Futuna, and New 
Caledonia determine their legal and political relationships to 
France by means of referendums, and they elect deputies and 
senators to the French Parliament.

Presidential elections by direct popular vote are conducted 
every 7 years.  Representatives to the National Assembly, the 
lower chamber of Parliament, are directly elected every 5 
years, unless the Government is dissolved sooner.  Senators are 
elected indirectly, by an electoral college, for 9-year terms; 
elections for one-third of this chamber are held every 3 
years.  The President selects the Prime Minister from the party 
or coalition that has the parliamentary majority.

There are no restrictions in law on the participation of women 
in politics or government, but they remain significantly 
underrepresented in public offices, especially at the national 
level.  In 1994, their numbers were 3 of 30 members of the 
Cabinet, 17 of 321 Senators, and 34 of 577 deputies in the 
National Assembly.  Some parties have established quotas for 
women 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 (NCCHR)--which has 
nongovernment as well as government members--monitors 
complaints and advises the Government on policies and 
legislation.  It is an independent body within the Office of 
the Prime Minister.

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.  In March the 
Parliament amended the Penal Code to increase prison terms and 
fines for persons found guilty of discriminating on the basis 
of race, origin, religion, or appearance, or of desecrating 
grave sites of a specific ethnic, religious, national, or 
racial group; also, to make organizations as well as 
individuals liable to charges of discrimination, and to broaden 
the definition of crimes against humanity.

     Women

The Penal Code prohibits abuse as well as violence against 
women, and specifically criminalizes wife beating.  Amendments 
in March upgraded the crime from a misdemeanor to a felony.  
The penalty for rape ranges from 15 years to life in prison, 
with no differentiation between spousal and other rape.  Some 
13,000 incidents of wife beating were reported to police in 
1990 (latest data).  Most of the reported assaults on women--54 
percent--were committed by spouses, and most of the rest by 
other male partners.  About 60 private associations help 
battered women.  The Government offers shelter, counseling, and 
financial assistance, and operates a telephone hot-line.

While the law requires that women receive equal pay for equal 
work, this is often not the reality.  Among professionals and 
managers, the mean discrepancy between wages of women and of 
men in comparable positions was 29.4 percent in 1993 (latest 
data), a slight improvement from 31 percent in 1986.  In 1993 
the pay gap among white-collar employees was 11.4 percent (in 
1986, 18 percent), and 17 percent among skilled blue-collar 
workers (in 1986, 24 percent).  Women are underrepresented in 
the senior ranks of government service (they constituted 12 
percent in 1990--latest data) and industry.  In 1987 the 
Government initiated a program to help women enter professions 
previously dominated by men.  It reimburses a participating 
firm for up to 50 percent of a trainee's educational and other 
expenses.  In 1993 (latest data), 119 women entered this 
program.

     Children

There are strict laws against child abuse, particularly when 
committed by a parent or guardian.  In 1993 (latest data) there 
were 6,500 cases of physical violence against children.  
Another 6,000 children were victims of mental cruelty or severe 
negligence.  Special sections of the national police and 
judiciary are charged with handling these cases.  The 
Government provides counseling, financial aid, foster homes, 
and orphanages, depending on the extent of the problem.  
Various associations help minors seek justice in cases of 
mistreatment by parents.

Some immigrants from countries where female genital mutilation 
(FGM) is customary subject their children to this.  French 
authorities have prosecuted some cases involving FGM and have 
undertaken an information campaign to inform immigrants that 
FGM is contrary to the law and will be prosecuted.

     National/Racial/Ethnic Minorities

Anti-immigrant sentiments sparked incidents including 
occasional attacks by skinheads on members of the large 
Arab/Muslim and black African communities, and on the Jewish 
population.  In March the annual report of the NCCHR (see 
Section 4) noted a sharp rise in attacks and threats, from 172 
in 1992 to 342 in 1993.  In response, the Government initiated 
a program to combat racism and anti-Semitism through a campaign 
to promote public awareness and bring together local officials, 
police, and concerned associations; it also initiated 
antiracist educational programs in Paris public schools, and 
(see Section 2.a.) banned distribution of a skinhead 
publication.  NCCHR data indicate there were 52 arrests in 1993 
and 56 during the first 9 months of 1994 for racist attacks or 
threats.  (No data are available on convictions.)

The NCCHR's report also implicitly criticized some of the 1993 
revisions of the Immigration Law, asserting that "useless and 
vexing" bureaucratic hurdles in obtaining documentation, such 
as identity papers, sometimes resulted in separation of spouses 
and even separation of children from parents.

The police make arbitrary identity checks in areas of high 
immigrant concentration, particularly those with relatively 
many black or Maghrebi residents.  They stepped up these 
activities in August, when the Minister of Interior--responding 
to the assassinations of French officials in Algeria--ordered a 
widespread crackdown on suspected or potential terrorist 
networks in France.

     Religious Minorities

The NCCHR report in March noted a sharp increase also in the 
number of anti-Semitic incidents, from 103 in 1992 to 299 in 
1993.  Government sources indicate that in 1994 some 20 Jewish 
and Muslim graves were desecrated.  No arrests were made for 
anti-Semitic attacks or threats in 1993, but there were eight 
arrests on such charges during the first 9 months of 1994.  
These cases are under investigation.

In April a pro-Nazi militia officer, Paul Touvier, who was 
convicted of ordering the murder of Jewish prisoners in 1944, 
became the first French citizen to be convicted of World War II 
crimes against humanity.  He was sentenced to life imprisonment.

     People with Disabilities

The law provides extensive protection as well as welfare 
benefits for people with disabilities.  Since 1988 the law has 
mandated that disabled persons make up at least 6 percent of 
all public and private enterprises with 20 or more employees.  
In some cases the Government will reimburse employers up to 20 
percent of the costs of employing a disabled person.  A 1993 
study concluded that the program was successful in meeting its 
goals in the public sector; while it found the private sector 
also largely in compliance, it noted that firms often chose not 
to hire the handicapped themselves but rather to take advantage 
of a provision permitting companies to pay into a special fund 
to help government agencies provide such employment.

A 1991 law requires new public buildings to be accessible to 
the physically handicapped.

In March the Government's Ombudsman reported that, despite 
governmental action, disabled people still faced considerable 
obstacles to the exercise of some of their rights.  He called 
for greater coordination between central and local governments, 
private social workers, and the handicapped themselves and 
their families.  The Government has not yet responded to the 
Ombudsman's report.

Section 6  Worker Rights

     a.  The Right of Association

The Constitution provides for freedom of association for all 
workers.  Although less than 10 percent of the total work force 
is unionized (12 to 15 percent in the public sector, 5 to 6 
percent in the private sector), trade unions exercise 
significant economic and political influence.  They have 
legally mandated roles (as do employers) in administering 
social institutions, including social security (health care and 
most retirement systems), the unemployment insurance system, 
labor courts, and the Economic and Social Council, a 
constitutionally mandated consultative body.

The unions are independent of the Government, however, and most 
are not aligned with any political party.  Many of the leaders 
of the General Confederation of Labor and its unions belong to 
the Communist Party.

Unions can freely join federations and confederations, 
including international ones.

Workers, including civil servants, are free to strike except 
when a strike threatens public safety.  As one-fourth of all 
salaried employees work for the Government, strikes in the 
public sector tend to be fairly numerous and receive extensive 
media coverage.  In 1994 there were a few, brief strikes in 
both the public and private sectors; none brought out large 
numbers or involved long work stoppages.

The law prohibits retribution against strikers or strike 
leaders, and the Government effectively enforces this.

     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.  
The law strictly prohibits antiunion discrimination; employers 
found guilty of it are required to reinstate workers fired for 
union activities.

A 1982 law requires at least annual bargaining in the public 
and private sector on wages, hours, and working conditions at 
both plant and industry levels, but does not require that 
negotiations result in a signed contract.  In case of an 
impasse, government mediators 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 the 
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, composed of worker and employer 
representatives, are available to resolve complaints.

The law requires businesses with more than 50 employees to 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.

The Constitution's provisions for trade union rights extend to 
France's overseas departments and territories.

     c.  Prohibition of Forced or Compulsory Labor

Forced or compulsory labor is prohibited by law, and the 
Government effectively enforces this.  In its 1993 report, 
however, the ILO'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 certain 
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 age 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 $6.50 (35.56 francs) per 
hour.  Following massive public demonstrations against a draft 
law that would have lowered the minimum wage for youths in some 
training programs, the Government rescinded it.

The legal workweek is 39 hours, with a minimum break of 24 
hours per week.  Overtime is restricted to 9 hours per week.

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.  The law requires 
that any enterprise with 50 or more employees have an 
occupational health and safety committee; over 75 percent of 
all enterprises, covering 75 percent of employees, had such 
committees as of 1992 (latest data).

(###)



[end of document]

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