French police accused of human rights abuse

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The Independent Online

France will be accused this week of trampling the human rights of police detainees and asylum-seekers.

A hard-hitting report by the Council of Europe's human rights chief, Alvaro Gil-Robles, calls for an "urgent" reform of the conditions of detention of criminal suspects in French police stations. "In a great number of the police cells we visited, detainees have to sleep on the floor, with no mattress or bed-sheets," Mr Gil-Robles complains in extracts of the report released yesterday, a state of affairs he condemns as "unacceptable".

Mr Gil-Robles calls for a fundamental rethink of the system of garde à vous, temporary detention, which allows police to imprison suspects for 48 hours and terrorist suspects for six days with minimal legal advice.

In another section of the report, the Council of Europe's Spanish human rights commissioner criticises the harsh treatment of asylum-seekers. Many people arriving in France, even those with genuine asylum claims, were dumped in "waiting zones" where their rights are systematically denied, he complained. Immigration officers exploit the ignorance of the detainees by imposing illegal conditions, such as demanding that all asylum claims are made in French.

* Eighteen police officers had been questioned about allegations in a new book, Place Beauvau, about the interior ministry,that they tortured terror suspects after the Paris bombings in 1995. It is alleged that one suspect was suspended from a police station window in Lyons.