French police 'guilty of widespread brutality'

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The Independent Online

French police resort systematically to beatings and ill-treatment when questioning suspects, the European agency for the prevention of torture complained on Thursday.

French police resort systematically to beatings and ill-treatment when questioning suspects, the European agency for the prevention of torture complained on Thursday.

Inspectors also found French prisons and cells in police stations were often overcrowded and "repulsively dirty". The French government responded by promising an immediate Fr2.1m (£200,000) to correct the worst abuses.

The report by the European Committee for the Prevention of Torture and Inhumane and Degrading Treatment (CPT), an agency of the Council of Europe, followed inspections in 25 French towns last year.

The inspectors found that there had been some reduction in the use of violence while questioning suspects but that it remained widespread, especially among officers of the Police Nationale, which looks after the nation's main towns and cities. The record of the gendarmerie, which polices small towns and the countryside, was much better.

Suspects in police custody were punched, kicked, thrown to the ground, kept awake for unreasonably long periods and often ill-fed, the report said.

In Paris, medical aid was needed for 2,000 police detainees each month. Most of those were suffering from illness or injuries sustained when they were arrested.

An average of three people in the French capital each day showed signs of having been beaten or having had their handcuffs fastened too tightly, according to French medical reports quoted by the report.

The French anti-terrorist squad – the DNAT – is especially taken to task for the use of brutal interrogation methods. Punches, slaps, the pulling of hair and the questioning of suspects for up to 54 hours out of 60 were common.

Other brutality black spots were the detention centres at the Santé prison in eastern Paris and at Orly and Charles de Gaulle airports.

Many other prisons and detention centres were criticised in the report for being "unacceptably overcrowded" and "repulsively dirty".

The French government said that it had "ordered heads of department to remind all officers of their obligations".

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