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Torture in France


Report 2002
Covering events from January - December 2001

FRANCE 2002 :

Incidents of police brutality were reported. Asylum-seekers and undocumented foreign nationals were among the alleged victims. Children alleged ill-treatment and there was concern about children being isolated in holding areas. Some reports related to the ill-treatment of foreign nationals in overseas departments or territories. Poor conditions for detainees in police custody incurred strong criticism. The judicial resolution of certain cases of fatal police shootings aroused further serious concerns about the impunity of officers. AI called on the government to face up to its judicial obligations in respect of torture and summary executions of Algerians during the Algerian war of independence. Several judicial inquiries were opened into allegations of human rights violations during the war, but some were closed shortly afterwards.

Chirac in papier-mâché

Download this country report as a pdf file: politic

Link to the Amnesty International library of documents on France


Torture in France


Report 2001
Covering events from January - December 2000

FRANCE 2001 :

Allegations of police brutality, notably involving asylum-seekers and others of non-European origin, persisted. Police shootings, some fatal, occurred in disputed circumstances. Some courts continued to play a part in perpetuating a situation of effective impunity, notably in regard to deaths in custody. Conditions in holding areas for asylum-seekers were described as inhuman and degrading. A book by a prison doctor reinvigorated debate about prison conditions. Refugees continued to be subject to a form of prolonged administrative detention. Two French generals were among others who publicly admitted that, during the Algerian war of independence, they had committed torture and extrajudicial executions.

Chirac in wax

Download this country report as a pdf file: politic

Link to the Amnesty International library of documents on France


Philippe Roger, directeur d’études

L’anti-américanisme français (1930-2000) et les stratégies littéraires de diabolisation

Mardi de 18 h à 20 h (salle 4, 105 bd Raspail), du 7 novembre au 12 juin.

L’anti-américanisme, en France et depuis un peu plus d’un siècle, est relayé et périodiquement réactivé par un discours remarquablement stable et organisé, qui transcende les clivages politiques traditionnels et qui mobilise des savoirs et des formes très variés (nouvelles « sciences de l’homme » à la fin du XIXe siècle ; récits de voyageurs entre la fin du XIXe siècle et les années 1930 ; fiction romanesque tout au long du XXe siècle, etc.). Cette année sera consacrée aux figures de l’anti-américanisme dans les temps modernes et, plus généralement, à une réflexion sur les stratégies littéraires de « diabolisation ».

Direction de travaux d’étudiants : mercredi de 16 h à 18 h.

Inscription pédagogique : envoi des dossiers à M. Roger, Groupe de recherches sur l’Europe, 54 bd Raspail 75006 Paris.

Réception : sur rendez-vous : 01 49 54 23 46. Nécessité d’un projet de recherche écrit.


Country Reports.
Country-by-country archives.

French Wiretapping Scandal Leads to Electorial Defeat

by Dave Banisar, Special to the Privacy Times

The French Socialist Party suffered a resounding defeat in parlimentary elections on March 21 and 28 in part due to a wiretapping scandal that broke a week before the elections. Results showed that they lost over 200 seats in the Parliment and became the minority party. Socialist President Francois Mitterrand will remain in office but is expect to face a tough election in 1994.
The scandal emerged after reports and transcripts were leaked to Paris Daily Liberation that a special counter-intelligence group directly responsible to President Mitterrand illegally wiretapped numerous people during the 80's. Included in those wiretaps was Edwy Plenel, a famous investigative journalist for Le Monde, who broke the story that French agents were behind the bombing of the Greenpeace ship Rainbow Warrier in New Zealand in 1986. Plenel's appartment, and work phone were tapped. Other indviduals wiretapped included Franois Froment-Meurice, the deputy leader leader of the Social Democratic Centre - an opposition party, actress and Chenel perfume model Carole Bouquet, lawyer Antoine Comte, and writer Jean-Edern Hallier, who published a phamphlet called "The Lost Honor of Francois Mitterrand." Hallier's personal phone was not tapped but the the phones at his office, his cook's appartment and several bars that he frequented were tapped by French agents.
The head of the counter-terrorism group was later given the French Legion of Honor award for heading security at the 1992 Albertville Winter Olympics. Plenel, Froment-Meurice, and Haillerand now plan to file suit against the French Government to discover who ordered the taps.
In 1990, the European Court of Human Rights condemmed the French goverment for illegal wiretapping. The Court found that "French law, written and unwritten, did not provide the applicants with the minimum degree of protection to which citizens were entitled under the rule of law in a democratic society."1 This resulted in a new French law on wiretapping, which was enacted in 1991. The new law allows for wiretapping with a warrant but also mandates cooperation from service providers. It also specifically exempts cellular and other wireless communications for protection. Documents obtained by Computer Professionals for Social Responsibility (CPSR) indicate that the 1991 French law may have provided the basis for the FBI's 1992 Digital Telephony Proposal, which was rejected by Congress in 1992 when no Congressman and Senator was willing to sponsor it.
More recently, author Peter Schweizer reported in his book Friendly Spies that the French government regularly wiretaps conversations of foreign companies for industrial information which is then passed onto French companies. 2 He wrote that some companies, such as IBM, regularly send false information to their French subsidiaries to confuse French intelligence.

1 Huvig v. France, 12 EHRR 528 (24 April 1990).
2 Schweizer, Friendly Spies: How America's Allies are Using Economic Espionage to Steal our Secrets, Atlantic Press Monthly (1993).





An International Survey of Privacy Laws and Practice

French Republic
The right of privacy is not explicitly protected in the French Constitution of 1792. The tort of privacy was first recognized in France as far back as 1858. [fn 163] The Constitutional Court ruled in 1994 that the right of privacy was implicit in the Constitution. [fn 164]

The Data Protection Act was enacted in 1978 and covers personal information held by government agencies and private entities.[fn 165] Anyone wishing to process personal data must register and obtain permission in many cases relating to processing by public bodies and for medical research. Individuals must be informed of the reasons for collection of information and may object to its processing. Individuals have rights to access and to demand corrections. Fines and imprisonment can be imposed for violations. The law is currently being amended to make it consistent with the EU Directive. A report was issued in February 1998 by M. Guy Braibank setting out the plan for the changes. [fn 166]

The Commission Nationale de L'informatique et des Liberté (CNIL) is an independent agency which enforces the Data Protection Act and other related laws.[fn 167] The Commission takes complaints, issues rulings, sets rules, conducts audits and issues reports. It reported in its 1997 annual report that it had registered 580,000 data processings since 1978. [fn 168] It received 4,452 complaints and requests for access in 1997. [fn 169]

Electronic surveillance is regulated by a 1991 law which requires permission of an investigating judge before a wiretap is installed. [fn 170] The law created the Commission National de Contôl des Interceptions de Sécurité, which sets rules and reviews wiretaps each year. There were 4713 orders for national security taps in 1997, including 1803 renewals. [fn 171] The European Court of Human Rights has ruled against France a number of times for violations of Article 8 of the Convention. The Court's 1990 decision in Kruslin v. France resulted in the enactment of the 1991 law.[fn 172] Most recently, the court fined France FF 25,000 for wiretap law violations. [fn 173] There have been many cases of illegal wiretapping, including most notably a long running scandal over an anti-terrorist group in the office of President Mitterand monitoring the calls of journalists and opposition politicians. [fn 174] The CNCIS estimated that there were over 100,000 illegal taps conducted by private companies and individuals in 1996, many on the behalf of government agencies. A decree was issued in 1997 to limit the dissemination of tapping equipment. [fn 175]

There are additional specific laws on administrative documents, [fn 176] archives, [fn 177] video surveillance [fn 178] and employment. [fn 179] There are also protections incorporated in the Civil Code [fn 180] and Penal Code. [fn 181]

France is a member of the Council of Europe and has signed and ratified the Convention for the Protection of Individuals with Regard to Automatic Processing of Personal Data (ETS No. 108).[fn 182] It has signed and ratified the European Convention for the Protection of Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms.[fn 183] It is a member of the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development and has adopted the OECD Guidelines on the Protection of Privacy and Transborder Flows of Personal Data.