Collective statement originally published in French on Libération, 1 July 2020 – accessible here
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Initiative by LDH and signed by several personalities and organisations, against police violence and racism.
The whole world is marching, with or without authorisation, to condemn the murder of George Floyd, to honour his memory, and to declare that finally black people, victims to various degrees of systemic and institutional racism, must be able to “breathe”, i.e. to live like any human being, free and equal to others, has the imprescriptible right to do so. What these demonstrators are particularly demanding is that violence, daily humiliation based on appearance, origin or domicile, as well as brutality up to and including death, should no longer be tolerated, protected or encouraged by public authorities and their representatives at the top and bottom of the “chain of command”.
In France, despite the evidence of a colonial past that still weighs on social relations, despite the countless manifestations of the mix of social, territorial and racial inequalities, despite the cries of pain and anger of those who are the victims, relayed by associations and authenticated by the Défenseur des droits himself, denial is officialized. In the wake of an unprecedented mobilization on these issues, the Minister of the Interior limited himself to declaring that the police officers under his command “protect all French people, including against racism”. This provocation, which promised impunity for those police officers and gendarmes who confuse an identity with a face, has gone unheeded. In the face of the growing mobilization, the minister and the government today promise to renounce to such a technique, to such a procedure, to enforce the law by the forces of police and show timely reports and investigations .
While this change of tone is not insignificant, it is not enough.
At a time when a health crisis, during which the extent of social and territorial discrimination has been exposed in full light, and which we discover has also covered up many “blunders” in the application of security policies, it is urgent that the excess be removed by speaking the truth.
Speaking the truth means reminding public authorities that they must respect and uphold fundamental rights by showing the courage to punish.
Speaking the truth means recognizing the role of institutions and policies in the development of racism and discrimination.
Speaking the truth means naming the perpetrators of violence and racism and those responsible for them and demanding that they be punished.
Speaking the truth means responding to those who are mobilizing for the respect of their fundamental rights, social justice and justice in general.
Civil society, human rights associations and committees dealing with cases of police violence have long been putting forward proposals along these lines. Some of them have been taken up by the National Consultative Commission on Human Rights (CNCDH) and the Défenseur des droits. They constitute a basis for initiating in-depth reform of the police, its missions, methods and control.
We, citizens of all opinions, all origins, all faiths, all ages, genders and professions, call for the creation of an independent commission, under the authority of the CNCDH, which will receive the grievances of victims, listen to all the people and organisations concerned and make proposals to renew the link between the police and the population and to fight violence and racism.
The President of the Republic has recently reiterated the wish to give the nation affected by the health crisis a fresh start. This new beginning will not take place unless racial discrimination and the violence that accompanies it are removed from our present. It will not happen without all citizens. It needs truth and justice.