FRANCE: To ensure respect of the rule of law in the field of fines and penalties – Open Letter

Article originally published in French on LDH, 10 April 2020 – accessible here

Open letter from several organisations, including LDH, and lawyers to the Prime Minister, the Minister of the Interior and the Secretary of State of the Minister of the Interior.

Subject: demands for compliance with the rule of law in the area of fines, following the call for discernment by law enforcement authorities.

Dear Prime Minister,

We, associations, unions, lawyers, are writing to you following your hearing on April 1 before the parliamentary enquiry mission on the impact, management and consequences of the Covid-19 Coronavirus epidemic at the National Assembly. At that time, you called on the police forces to “show discernment” in their task of monitoring compliance with the containment measures and establishing the offences from which fines are imposed. We welcome this call, but note that it will not be enough to prevent the abuses already observed by our organisations.

On 27 March, 22 CIVIL SOCIETY ORGANISATIONS alerted the interior minister to the existence of several videos and testimonies apparently reporting abusive police controls and violence. These organizations then called on “the Minister of the Interior and the Director General of the National Police to ensure that the policing and control operations in the context of the fight against the Covid-19 epidemic do not give rise to abuses”.

A week later, we note that the testimonies of abusive controls and verbalisations are multiplying. They also report breaches of security measures by the police forces, who are not wearing protective gloves and masks and do not always keep a safe distance, which endangers the health of the persons being checked and the officials.

Many citizens also deplore the conditions and reasons for their fines. Many of the fines are the result of erroneous or excessive interpretation of government instructions by officers. While the police are not allowed to visually inspect bags (let alone search them), tickets are issued on the basis of an arbitrary interpretation of the concept of “basic necessities”, the verification of which is not permitted by law. Similarly, in violation of medical confidentiality, police officers assess whether or not it is necessary to go to a doctor or a pharmacy.

To cite just a few examples, among those who have flooded the social networks and the media in recent days :

– On 26 MARCH, in AULNAY-SOUS-BOIS (93), a man in possession of a laissez-passer authorising him to circulate permanently in the Ile-de-France region, as well as a travel waiver, was nonetheless fined on the grounds that he had forgotten to indicate his year of birth on his exemption certificate. If it is added that this man claims to have also been the subject of racist insults, one may wonder about the real reason for his fine.
– On 30 MARCH in PARIS (75), a man was fined 200 euros for not having copied all the reasons of his exit on his certificate.
For a broader overview, we invite you to consult our website, which compiles an already large number of such stories.

Continue reading the article in French