International Criminology World

World : Europe : France

France was one of the earliest countries to progress from feudalism to the nation-state. Its monarchs surrounded themselves with capable ministers, and French armies were among the most innovative, disciplined, and professional of their day.

During the reign of Louis XIV (1643-1715), France was the dominant power in Europe. But overly ambitious projects and military campaigns of Louis and his successors led to chronic financial problems in the 18th century. Deteriorating economic conditions and popular resentment against the complicated system of privileges granted the nobility and clerics were among the principal causes of the French Revolution (1789-94). Although the revolutionaries advocated republican and egalitarian principles of government, France reverted to forms of absolute rule or constitutional monarchy four times—the Empire of Napoleon, the Restoration of Louis XVIII, the reign of Louis-Philippe, and the Second Empire of Napoleon III. After the Franco-Prussian War (1870), the Third Republic was established and lasted until the military defeat of 1940.

World War I (1914-18) brought great losses of troops and materiel. In the 1920s, France established an elaborate system of border defenses (the Maginot Line) and alliances to offset resurgent German strength. France was defeated early in World War II, however, and occupied in June 1940. The German victory left the French groping for a new policy and new leadership suited to the circumstances. On July 10, 1940, the Vichy government was established. Its senior leaders acquiesced in the plunder of French resources, as well as the sending of French forced labor to Germany; in doing so, they claimed they hoped to preserve at least some small amount of French sovereignty.

The German occupation proved quite costly, however, as a full one-half of France’s public sector revenue was appropriated by Germany. After 4 years of occupation and strife, Allied forces liberated France in 1944. A bitter legacy carries over to the present day.

France emerged from World War II to face a series of new problems. After a short period of provisional government initially led by Gen. Charles de Gaulle, the Fourth Republic was set up by a new constitution and established as a parliamentary form of government controlled by a series of coalitions. The mixed nature of the coalitions and a consequent lack of agreement on measures for dealing with Indochina and Algeria caused successive cabinet crises and changes of government.

Finally, on May 13, 1958, the government structure collapsed as a result of the tremendous opposing pressures generated in the divisive Algerian issue. A threatened coup led the Parliament to call on General de Gaulle to head the government and prevent civil war. He became prime minister in June 1958 (at the beginning of the Fifth Republic) and was elected president in December of that year.

Seven years later, in an occasion marking the first time in the 20th century that the people of France went to the polls to elect a president by direct ballot, de Gaulle won re-election with a 55% share of the vote, defeating François Mitterrand. In April 1969, President de Gaulle’s government conducted a national referendum on the creation of 21 regions with limited political powers. The government’s proposals were defeated, and de Gaulle subsequently resigned. Succeeding him as president of France have been Gaullist Georges Pompidou (1969-74), Independent Republican Valery Giscard d’Estaing (1974-81), Socialist François Mitterrand (1981-95), and neo-Gaullist Jacques Chirac (first elected in spring 1995 and reelected in 2002.

While France continues to revere its rich history and independence, French leaders are increasingly tying the future of France to the continued development of the European Union. During President Mitterrand’s tenure, he stressed the importance of European integration and advocated the ratification of the Maastricht Treaty on European economic and political union, which France’s electorate narrowly approved in September 1992. President Jacques Chirac assumed office May 17, 1995, after a campaign focused on the need to combat France’s stubbornly high unemployment rate.

The center of domestic attention soon shifted, however, to the economic reform and belt-tightening measures required for France to meet the criteria for Economic and Monetary Union (EMU) laid out by the Maastricht Treaty. In late 1995, France experienced its worst labor unrest in at least a decade, as employees protested government cutbacks. On the foreign and security policy front, Chirac took a more assertive approach to protecting French peacekeepers in the former Yugoslavia and helped promote the peace accords negotiated in Dayton and signed in Paris in December 1995. The French have been one of the strongest supporters of NATO and EU policy in Kosovo and the Balkans. In the aftermath of the September 11 attacks in the U.S., France played a central role in the war on terrorism. French forces, including the Charles de Gaulle carrier battle group, participated in Operation Enduring Freedom. French troops also took part in the International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) for Afghanistan. See Political Conditions for most recent election.



With a GDP of $1.3 trillion, France is the fourth-largest Western industrialized economy. It has substantial agricultural resources, a large industrial base, and a highly skilled work force. A dynamic services sector accounts for an increasingly large share of economic activity (72% in 1997) and is responsible for nearly all job creation in recent years. GDP growth was 1.8% in 2001, after 3 years at 3% or above.

Government economic policy aims to promote investment and domestic growth in a stable fiscal and monetary environment. Creating jobs and reducing the high unemployment rate has been a top priority. The Government of France successfully reduced an unemployment rate of 12% to 9%, recently. France joined 10 other European Union countries in adopting the euro as its currency in January 1999. On January 1, 2002, France, along with the other countries of the Euro zone, dropped its national currency in favor of Euro bills and coins. Henceforth, monetary policy will be set by the European Central Bank in Frankfurt.

Despite significant reform and privatization over the past 15 years, the government continues to control a large share of economic activity: Government spending, at 52.7% of GDP in 2001, is among the highest in the G-7. Regulation of labor and product markets is pervasive. The government continues to own shares in corporations in a range of sectors, including banking, energy production and distribution, automobiles, transportation, and telecommunications.

Legislation passed in 1998 shortened the legal work week from 39 to 35 hours for most employees effective January 1, 2000. A key objective of the legislation was to encourage job creation, for which significant new subsidies were made available. It is difficult to assess the impact of work week reduction on growth and jobs since many of the key economic parameters, such as the impact on labor costs and a company’s ability to reorganize work schedules, depend on the outcome of labor-management negotiations that are ongoing.

France has been very successful in developing dynamic telecommunications, aerospace, and weapons sectors. With virtually no domestic oil production, France has relied heavily on the development of nuclear power, which now accounts for about 80% of the country’s electricity production. Nuclear waste is stored on site at reprocessing facilities.

Membership in France’s labor unions accounts for less than 10% of the private sector work force and is concentrated in the manufacturing, transportation, and heavy industry sectors. Most unions are affiliated with one of the competing national federations, the largest and most powerful of which are the communist-dominated General Labor Confederation (CGT), the Workers’ Force (FO), and the French Democratic Confederation of Labor (CFDT).



The Constitution provides for freedom of religion, and the Government generally respected this right in practice. The 1905 law on the separation of church and state prohibits discrimination on the basis of faith. Minority religious groups continued to be concerned about the possible impact of legislation passed in 2001.

In order to receive tax-exempt status, religious groups must apply with the local prefecture to be recognized as an association of worship and disclose certain management and financial information.

The Government has encouraged public caution toward some minority religious groups that it may consider to be cults. A 1996 parliamentary commission report identified as so-called cults 173 groups, including Jehovah’s Witnesses, the Theological Institute of Nimes (an evangelical Christian Bible college), and the Church of Scientology. Members of some of the groups included in the list have alleged instances of intolerance due to the ensuing publicity. The "Interministerial Mission in the Fight Against Sects/Cults" (MILS) was formed in 1998 to coordinate government monitoring of sects/cults. In February MILS released its annual report on the monitoring of cults. The president of MILS resigned in June under criticism and an interministerial working group was formed to determine the future parameters of the Government’s monitoring of sects/cults. In November the Government announced the formation of the Interministerial Monitoring Mission Against Sectarian Abuses (MIVILUDES), which is charged with observing and analyzing sect/cult movements that constitute a threat to public order or that violate French law, coordinating the appropriate response, informing the public about potential risks, and helping victims to receive aid. In its announcement of the formation of MIVILUDES, the Government acknowledged that its predecessor, MILS, had been criticized for certain actions abroad that could have been perceived as contrary to religious freedom.

Religious organizations remained concerned about the June 2001 About-Picard law, which tightens restrictions on associations and provides for the dissolution of groups, including religious groups, under certain conditions. By the end of the year, no cases had been brought under the new law. In November the Council of Europe passed a resolution inviting the Government to reconsider the About-Picard law and to clarify certain terms in it, stating that only the ECHR could make a determination as to the law’s compatibility with the European Convention on Human Rights.

Some observers were concerned about the tax authorities’ scrutiny of the financial records of some religious groups. On February 28, the Versailles Court of Appeals upheld a Nanterre court’s 2000 decision that the Jehovah’s Witnesses must pay more than $47.5 million (45.7 million euros) in back taxes. The Jehovah’s Witnesses, some branches of which are not recognized as tax-exempt religious organizations, were appealing the decision to the Court of Cassation at year’s end.

In 2001 local authorities in La Rochelle and Lorient refused to rent Jehovah’s Witnesses public space for meetings, citing as a basis for their decision the inclusion of the group in the 1996 parliamentary report on sects. In February and May, administrative tribunals overturned each city’s decision, concluding that the parliamentary report had no legal basis and that the cities could not refuse the group access to public space.

In 2001 charges were filed against the Church of Scientology for fraud and false advertising in a lawsuit brought by three former members. In May the court found the Paris branch guilty of violating the privacy of former members and fined it approximately $8,316 (8,000 euros); however, the branch was cleared of attempted fraud and false advertising. The court fined the president of the Ile-de-France section of the organization approximately $2,079 (2,000 euros). Church of Scientology representatives reported that a case filed by a parent whose child attended an "Applied Scholastics"-based school remained ongoing.

Foreign missionaries from countries not exempted from visa requirements to enter the country must obtain a 3-month tourist visa before leaving their own country. All missionaries who wish to remain in the country longer than 90 days must obtain visas before entering the country. Upon arrival, they must apply with the local prefecture for a carte de sejour (a document that allows a foreigner to remain in the country for a given period of time) and must provide the prefecture a letter from their sponsoring religious organization.

Debate continues over whether denying some Muslim girls the right to wear headscarves in public schools constitutes a violation of the right to religious freedom. Various courts and government bodies have considered the question on a case-by-case basis; however, there has been no definitive national decision on this issue.

The State subsidizes private schools, including church-affiliated schools. Central or local governments own and provide upkeep for religious buildings constructed before the 1905 law separating church and state.

During the year, some religious minorities experienced problems. In the first half of the year, the number of anti-Semitic incidents increased. Attacks ranged from graffiti and harassment to cemetery desecration and firebombing, mainly as a result of increased tensions in the Middle East. According to the press, the police reported approximately 400 incidents from March 29 to April 17, with the most serious occurring over the Easter-Passover weekend. French authorities increased security for Jewish institutions, investigated the attacks, and made arrests. Disaffected youths were apparently responsible for many of the incidents.

In addition, several incidents occurred against members of the large Arab/Muslim community, including incidents of harassment and vandalism.

Scientologists continued to report cases of societal discrimination during the year. Panda International software company claimed that press reports in 2001 and critical statements by government officials linking it to the Church of Scientology continued to cause a significant loss in business.



The crime rate in France is high compared to other industrialized countries. An analysis was done using INTERPOL data for France. For purpose of comparison, data were drawn for the seven offenses used to compute the United States FBI’s index of crime. Index offenses include murder, forcible rape, robbery, aggravated assault, burglary, larceny, and motor vehicle theft. The combined total of these offenses constitutes the Index used for trend calculation purposes. France will be compared with Japan (country with a low crime rate) and USA (country with a high crime rate). According to the INTERPOL data, for murder, the rate in 2002 was 4.07 per 100,000 population for France, 1.10 for Japan, and 5.51 for USA. For rape, the rate in 2002 was 17.63 for France, compared with 1.78 for Japan and 32.05 for USA. For robbery, the rate in 2002 was 224.35 for France, 4.08 for Japan, and 144.92 for USA. For aggravated assault, the rate in 2002 was 211.26 for France, 23.78 for Japan, and 323.62 for USA. For burglary, the rate in 2002 was 726.98 for France, 233.60 for Japan, and 728.42 for USA. The rate of larceny for 2002 was 2768.39 France, 1401.26 for Japan, and 2475.27 for USA. The rate for all index offenses combined was 4434.51 for France, compared with 1709.88 for Japan and 4123.97 for USA.



Between 1995 and 2002, according to INTERPOL data, the rate of murder decreased from 4.42 to 4.07 per 100,000 population, a decrease of 7.9%. The rate for rape increased from 12.67 to 17.63, an increase of 39.1%. The rate of robbery increased from 128.52 to 224.35, an increase of 74.6%. The rate for aggravated assault increased from 122.52 to 211.26, an increase of 72.4%. The rate for burglary decreased from 746.75 to 728.96, a decrease of 2.4%. The rate of larceny increased from 2626.75 to 2768.39, an increase of 5.4%. The rate of motor vehicle theft decreased from 605.76 to 479.85, a decrease of 20.8%. The rate of total index offenses increased from 4247.39 to 4434.51, an increase of 4.4%.



The legal system in France has developed through several stages since the country’s establishment. The stage of the Private Reaction characterized the legal system from the time France was founded up until the 16th century. The accusatory procedural system predominated judicial procedures at this time. The 16th century was marked by the stage of the Public Reaction, which established the inquisitorial system. This system was based on secret judicial procedures. Thus, repressiveness and arbitrariness in the judicial and legal procedure were characteristic of the regime before 1789. After the Revolution of 1789, a judicial system was established that was inspired by English law which enacted the principle of legality of offenses and punishments.

The stage of the Imperial Penal Law produced two written codes: the Code of Criminal Instruction of 1808 and the Penal Code of 1810. The Code of Criminal Instruction emerged from a blending of the inquisitory procedure and the accusatory procedure. The Penal Code resulted in the creation of a list of definable offenses. A number of reforms followed the creation of these codes, which generally tried to individualize the punishment to the particular offender. Reforms included the development of a suspended sentence for juveniles in their early stages of delinquency, such as first-time offenders, stiffening of punishment for recidivists, probation, parole, and alternatives to imprisonment. In addition, reform measures were taken which strengthened the rights of the accused.

Substantial reform has taken place in the last few decades. In 1958, the Code of Penal Procedure replaced the Code of Criminal Instruction. On July 22, 1992, a new Penal Code was presented, which went into effect on March 1, 1994. The New Penal Code has retained the tripartite distinction of crimes, misdemeanors, and violations, which was first established by the Penal Code of 1810.

The Code also addresses some new issues such as corporate crime, the development of alternative punishments to the deprivation of liberty, and reinforcing the severity of punishments for criminals who have committed more serious offenses. It also includes definitions of new crimes, such as offenses wherein persons are placed in dangerous situations by others, ecological terrorism, sexual harassment, crimes against humanity, and genocide.

Under both the Penal Law and Penal Procedure, there is a tripartite distinction of offenses based on their respective seriousness: crimes, misdemeanors, and violations. (New Penal Code, Article 111-1). There are distinctions between completed and attempted acts for crimes and misdemeanors, but not for violations.

Under the Penal Code, crimes and misdemeanors can incur a 20 year sentence and a 5 year sentence respectively. Violations can incur a 2 year sentence. However, in practice, sentence length is generally 10 years for crimes, 3 years for misdemeanors, and 1 year for violations.

Crimes are also classified into attacks against persons, attacks against property, and attacks against public security. Attacks against persons include intentional homicide (murder, assassination, infanticide), intentional violence non-intentional death, harm resulting in a permanent injury), and rape (including rape with more than one offender, aggravating circumstances, simple rape, and rape of a minor under 15 years of age). Attacks against property include theft, robbery, fraud, breach of trust, aggravated robberies, and vandalism. Attacks against the public security include counterfeiting.



The role of the police is generally to ensure that the laws are observed and enforced. Efforts are also directed at the prevention of delinquency. Police headquarters are in Paris.

The police force is under authority of the Minister of the Interior. At the top of the police hierarchy is the General Director of the National Police who oversees four divisions. The Central Division of General Information controls information services concerning political, economical, and social issues. The Central Division of the City Police is in charge of city law enforcement. The Central Branch of the Judiciary Police is in charge of coordinating the search for the most dangerous delinquents and the investigation of the most serious offenses. The Division of Territory Surveillance is in charge of State security.

In French society, the administrative police generally maintain peace and order, such as the regulation of traffic. A special squad of administrative police, the Intervention Group of the State National Police (Groupe d’Intervention de la Gendarmerie National) was created for anti-terrorist operations. In addition, municipal police contribute to law enforcement in the municipalities.

The State police force is under the authority of the Defense Minister. It fulfills the role of the administrative and judicial police in rural areas. There are also special customs police who work to control illegal entry of persons into the country to attack the public order.

Police can stop and arrest an offender and bring him or her in front of the public prosecutor if they observe an offense that is in the process of being committed or has just been committed. This arrest can take place in a coercive manner, involving the search and seizure of witnesses and suspects. As long as they have informed the public prosecutor’s office, police can keep suspects under observation for 24 hours. The length of observation increases to 48 or 96 hours in drug trafficking, drug use, and terrorism cases.

For crimes not directly observable by police, a preliminary investigation is conducted under the direction of the public prosecutor to obtain information on the reported offense. In these cases, suspects can be kept under observation only if there is evidence against them and this decision can only be made by a judiciary police officer. The law of August 24, 1993 guarantees that after 21 hours under observation, suspects have the right to request an attorney and the right to inform the family of the detention.

Police can arrest an offender if they observe an offense that is in the process of being committed or has just been committed. Search and seizure can occur during arrest, after the police have observed that a crime has just been committed or is about to be committed.

Presently, the law enforcement and internal security apparatus consisted of the Gendarmerie, the national police, and municipal police forces. Civilian authorities maintained control of the security forces. Some members of the police forces committed human rights abuses.

In year 2002, there were no reports of political killings by the Government or its agents. However, there were isolated incidents of law enforcement officers using excessive force, which may have led to the death of one person in custody. There was no evidence of a pattern of abuse.

The law prohibits such practices; however, there were allegations of isolated incidents in which law enforcement officers used excessive force. There was no evidence of a pattern of abuse. The authorities investigated alleged abuse by officials and punished those responsible when the allegations were substantiated. The Inspector General of the National Police and the Office of Judicial Police investigated and prosecuted allegations of police brutality. The independent National Commission on the Conduct of Police and Security Forces investigated and reported to the Prime Minister and Parliament on cases of misconduct by national and municipal police, gendarmes, and private security forces. The National Consultative Commission on Human Rights also monitored police conduct.

Government authorities continued to be concerned about violence in Corsica. The Corsican National Liberation Front claimed responsibility for 12 bombings this year; there were many other bombings that had not been claimed but were under investigation to determine whether their motivation was political or criminal. By year’s end, investigations continued in the killings of three members of the Armata Corsa and the 2000 shooting deaths of former Corsican nationalist militant Jean-Michel Rossi and his bodyguard.

The Government took steps to address the concerns of Corsican nationalists. In December 2001, Parliament approved the Matignon Agreement of 2000 that gives Corsica greater autonomy. However, in January the Constitutional Council declared that the first article violated the Fifth Republic’s constitutional prohibition against delegating legislative authority to local or regional assemblies. At year’s end, both the National Assembly and the Senate approved an extensive decentralization reform package that includes measures to reform the Constitution to allow delegation of authority in the manner called for by the Matignon Agreement. A final vote is scheduled for early 2003.



The law prohibits arbitrary arrest and detention, and the Government generally observed these prohibitions; however, credible sources have criticized the judicial system for its inability to process suspects quickly. Some suspects spend many years in prison before a trial. According to the Prison Administration, as of June 18,598 of the 54,950 persons held in jails and prisons were awaiting trial.

Police are required by law to obtain warrants prior to taking persons into custody. Detainees have access to lawyers. Suspects must have access to a lawyer within 1 hour of being detained. Pretrial detention is generally only allowed if there is a possibility that the suspect would be sentenced to more than 3 years in prison for crimes against persons and to more than 5 years in prison for crimes against property. There is a system of bail. The law prohibits forced exile, and the Government did not employ it.



The accused has the right to a self-obtained lawyer or to a lawyer chosen by the State. The accused also has the right to appeal the judge’s decision. At appeal, the accused is brought in for temporary custody under the Chamber of Accusation. Under the law of August 24, 1993, the accused has the right to ask the President of the Accusation Chamber to suspend any sentence until a decision is made on the appeal. Finally, the accused has the right to be compensated for abusive custody. The accused has the right to the assistance of an attorney.

Generally, the procedure by which a case is brought to court is more elaborate as the seriousness of the crime increases. There are two procedural stages preceding trial. In the police stage, the police conduct a preliminary investigation under the direction of the public prosecutor. This process involves a search for the suspect, a hearing of the suspect, and an observation of the suspect, once arrested. During this investigation, the suspect is kept under observation for 24 hours, which can be lengthened under authorization of the public prosecutor. Another type of investigation takes place when the suspect is caught while committing the crime. Police officers can make observations at the scene of the crime and relate their information to the public prosecutor.

The judiciary stage can be initiated by either the Public Minister or the victim, although the Public Minister studies the legalities involved in the charges and prosecutes the suspect. The Public Minister decides whether the case should be brought before a judge (15%) or be disposed of alternatively (85%).

The victim can also initiate prosecution by bringing a civil suit against the suspect, forcing the public prosecutor to take action. Under the Chamber of Accusation, preparatory instructions for the case are given to an examining magistrate who has the power to proceed with the examination of the suspect. (Under the law of August 24, 1993, the term "accuse" was replaced by the term "put under examination".) The magistrates can interrogate, confront, and bring warrants against the suspect. They can also arrest the suspect and bring him or her before judicial authority. Another set of instructions is given for the bringing of appeals.

The examining Magistrate reads the charge and the statement of the defense. Judges of the Correctional Court must explain reasoning for their decision.

The Public Minister can prosecute a suspect. Suspects are not allowed to plead guilty. A person may be kept under observation if there is evidence against him or her. Pre-trial detention may be decided by the judge of instruction or the Chamber of Accusation. The accused can appeal this decision and request release or can use the provisional order of release.

The accused can be released from pre-trial detention on bail. This decision is made by a judge of instruction or the Chamber of Accusation. In 1990, the number of pre-trial offenders totaled 20,789.

Police Courts have jurisdiction over violations of the law that incur a punishment of less than 2 months imprisonment and a maximum fine of 25,000 francs. Correctional Courts have jurisdiction over offenses which can incur a maximum of 10 years imprisonment.

The Assize Court has jurisdiction over serious crimes that have possible life imprisonment sentences. The Assize Court sits on an ad hoc basis (not a permanent court). Its decisions are permanent and cannot be brought for appeal.

The Chamber of Correctional Appeals hears appeals of decisions brought to it by the Police and Correctional Courts. The Criminal Chamber of the Supreme

Court of Appeal oversees the application of law in all courts. It verifies judicial decisions to ensure that the application of the law and the resulting sentences are sound, but does not actually hear any cases. Its judges determine the appropriate application of the law in a case, but do not draw any conclusions as to the facts of the case.

This court hears cases involving minors charged with offenses that would be brought to the Police and Correctional Courts if they were adults (for instance, misdemeanors and violations).

The sentence is determined by the court. The judge that sets the punishment also decides how the punishment will be carried out.

The accused, the victim, and the Public Minister can express their opinions at sentencing. Expert witnesses, such as psychiatrists, have a great influence. The court will generally abide by the conclusions of expert witnesses.

Penalties generally range from fines for minor offenses to deprivation of liberty for serious offenses, although imprisonment can be used for misdemeanors as well as more serious crimes. There are other punishments such as seizure of property, closing down of establishments, and community service.

A life sentence in prison is often given as punishment to the crimes of murder, assassination, parricide, poisoning, attack upon State security, and counterfeiting. Prison sentences are generally given for the crimes of rape, armed robbery, kidnapping of a minor, unlawful imprisonment, threats, assault, assistance of suicide, homicide, and forms of indecency (for instance, public indecency). The death penalty was repealed by the law of October 9, 1981.

The law provides for an independent judiciary, and the Government generally respected this provision in practice.

The court system includes local courts, 35 regional courts of appeal, and the highest criminal court, the Court of Cassation, which considers appeals on procedural grounds only. Prospective magistrates compete for entry into the National School for Judges; upon completion of their course of study and rigorous exams, magistrates are placed according to their class ranking.

The judicial system has been criticized by credible sources for its inability to process suspects quickly. In cases of serious crimes, investigating judges detain suspects for questioning and direct the criminal investigation that occurs before a case is tried. The chambre d’accusation reviews the investigating judge’s investigation to determine whether the charge established by the investigating judge was appropriate. The Court of Assises investigates and decides cases involving serious criminal offenses.

There were no significant developments during the year 2002 in Abdelhamid Hakkar’s suit before the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) charging that the Government violated Article 5 of the European Convention on Human Rights by keeping him in provisional detention for 5 years.

Omar Raddad, convicted of murder in 1994 and later pardoned by President Chirac, submitted a motion for a retrial in 1999 after new DNA evidence was discovered. On November 20, the Court of Revision determined that there was insufficient evidence to merit either a retrial or the annulment of Raddad’s original conviction. Raddad stated his intention to appeal to the ECHR. There were no reports of political prisoners.



There are five types of penal institutions. Central houses receive offenders who have been sentenced to more than 1 year in prison. Detention centers can also receive offenders with long sentences, but are orientated toward the re-socialization of offenders. Stop Houses receive offenders with less than a one year sentence. Penitentiary Centers are a hybrid of Stop Houses and Central Houses and receive offenders with both long and short sentences. Semi-liberty Centers house offenders who can be released for short periods of time to go to work, school, professional training, or undergo medical treatment.

The number of admissions into closed environment prisons located in cities, during 1990, was 78,444, the number of releases, 75,193. The number of annual incarcerations in an open environment was 91,545, with an average length of detention of 6.6 months.

Prison administration is affiliated with the Minister of Justice and consists of the central administration service and exterior services. The prison central administration service is headquartered in Paris. Prison exterior services

operate at both a regional and local level, along four areas of interest: the application of judicial decisions, reintegration, human resources, and general administration.

Inmates can apply for early release from the Penalty Application Commission. The reduction cannot exceed 3 months per year of incarceration and 7 days per month for incarceration over one year.

Time reduction is also permitted if the inmate passes an academic exam or completes university or professional studies. However, this form of reduction cannot exceed 2 months per year of incarceration.

Prisoners with life sentences can also obtain parole. The total reduction of sentence cannot exceed 20 days or a month per year of incarceration. Inmates are not obligated to work, although in principal, prisons are obligated to provide work for inmates to do. About 40% of the prisoners are provided with paid work.

Prisons are humanized on a physical level by the availability of sanitary conditions for inmates and on a moral level, by allowing inmates to have family contact and to receive visits at pre-determined intervals. In some cases, such as the death or imminent death of a relative, inmates can leave confinement for short periods of time.

Educators, social workers, prison visitors, and clergy from a variety of religions participate in the rehabilitation of inmates.

As of year 2002, prison conditions generally met international standards; however, public debate continued on the adequacy of prison conditions. In the past several years, credible nongovernmental organizations (NGOs) have reported overcrowding and unacceptable hygiene conditions in prisons. In September Parliament approved a prison reform bill that provided for the replacement of old prisons and the building of space for 13,200 more prisoners. The Government began construction and anticipated completing its plan to build 30 new prisons by 2006.

According to the Ministry of Justice, there were 54,950 persons in custody as of June. There was no evidence of deaths in prison due to mistreatment during the year 2002. The Ministry of Justice reported 235 deaths of persons in custody in 2001, of which 104 were suicides. The country does not keep statistics on causes of death of prisoners other than suicide. The NGO French Prison Suicide Observatory reported 116 suicides and suspicious deaths during the year 2002.

Men and women were held separately, juveniles were held separately from adults, and convicted criminals were held separately from pretrial detainees and those serving sentences of less than 1 year.

The Government permitted prison visits by independent human rights observers. The Council of Europe’s Committee for the Prevention of Torture visited the country in June but had not released a report of its findings by year’s end.



The Penal Code prohibits rape and spousal abuse, and in general these laws were enforced; however, violence against women remained a problem. The Ministry of Interior reported that in 2001 there were 9,574 rapes and 15,273 instances of other criminal sexual assault; in 2001 there were 1,718 convictions for rape. The penalties for domestic violence vary according to the type of crime and range from 3 years’ imprisonment and a fine of approximately $46,778 (45,000 euros) to 20 years in prison. The penalty for rape is 15 years in prison, which may be increased due to other circumstances (such as the age of the victim or the nature of the relationship of the rapist to the victim). The Government sponsored and funded programs for women who were victims of violence, including shelters, counseling, and hot lines. Numerous private associations also assisted abused women.

On October 4, in the Parisian suburb of Vitry-sur-Seine, a 17-year-old woman named Sohane, was burned to death in an attack by 19-year-old Jamal Derrar. Derrar was taken into police custody on October 6 and was awaiting trial at year’s end. Although the killing was an isolated incident, press reports and civil rights NGOs linked the incident to the "repressive atmosphere" in some suburbs dominated by immigrants from Arab countries. Some men in these suburbs reportedly intimidated women whom they perceived as breaking with social norms. The Government and NGOs have spoke out to condemn this behavior, which ranged from verbal abuse to physical assault and rape. On October 14, President Chirac announced the creation of an "independent authority" to combat all forms of discrimination, especially that against women.

Prostitution is legal; acting as a pimp is illegal. Trafficking in women for the purpose of sexual exploitation was a problem. A government agency, the Central Office on the Treatment of Human Beings (OCRTEH), addresses trafficking in women, prostitution, and pimping.

The law prohibits sex-based job discrimination and sexual harassment in the workplace. In January the Social Modernization Law modified existing laws on sexual harassment to prohibit harassment by colleagues as well as supervisors, to place on the employer the burden of proof that discrimination did not take place, and to create a mediation process to help workplaces address problems with harassment.

The law requires that women receive equal pay for equal work; however, this requirement often was not implemented in practice. Reports by various governmental organizations and NGOs have indicated that men continued to earn more than women and that unemployment rates continued to be higher for women than for men. The National Institute of Statistics and Economic Studies reported that in 2002 the unemployment rate for women was 10.1 percent, compared with 8.2 percent for men.



The Government was strongly committed to children’s rights and welfare; it amply funded systems of public education and medical care. The Ministry for Family Affairs oversees implementation of the Government’s programs for children.

There are strict laws against child abuse, particularly when committed by a parent or guardian, and the Government effectively prosecuted abusers. Child abuse was a problem, which the Government took steps to address. In 2001 there were approximately 18,000 reported cases of mistreatment (physical violence, sexual abuse, mental cruelty, or severe negligence) of children, compared with 18,300 in 2000. Approximately 5,900 of these cases involved reports of sexual abuse. Special sections of the national police and judiciary are charged with handling these cases. In 2001 there were 502 convictions for rapes of minors under the age of 15 and 3,750 convictions for cases of sexual assault against minors. In 2001 there were 7,961 convictions for cases of violence, mistreatment, and abandonment of minors. The Government provided counseling, financial aid, foster homes, and orphanages for victims, depending on the extent of the problem. Various associations also helped minors seek justice in cases of mistreatment by parents.



The law prohibits the trafficking of persons; however, trafficking in women and girls for prostitution and domestic slavery was a problem.

In January the Government passed a bill to eliminate human trafficking. The law creates a specific infraction in the penal code focused on trafficking in persons.

Prostitution is legal; however, the law prohibits pimping, including aiding, assisting, maintaining, or profiting from the prostitution of another, and the public solicitation of another person for the purpose of inciting sexual relations also is illegal. Pimps and traffickers usually were prosecuted under these laws. Aiding, abetting, or protecting the prostitution of another person; obtaining a profit, sharing proceeds or receiving subsidies from someone engaged in prostitution; or employing, leading, corrupting, or pressuring someone into prostitution are punishable by up to 5 years in prison and a fine of up to approximately $145,530 (140,000 euros). Penalties increased to a maximum of 10 years in prison and approximately $1.46 million (1.4 million euros) if a minor or several persons are involved, or if force is used. Pimping by organized groups is punishable by up to 20 years in prison and a fine of up to $2.9 million (2.8 million euros). The use of "torture" or "barbarous acts" in the course of pimping is punishable by up to life imprisonment and up to $4.37 million (4.2 million euros) in fines. These laws were enforced to various degrees; there also are strict laws combating trafficking in persons as it relates to domestic slavery. Slavery is punishable by up to 2 years’ imprisonment and $73,800 (71,000 euros). When the crime applies to more than one victim, punishments increase to 5 years’ imprisonment and $145,530 (140,000 euros) in fines.

The Government used existing legislative tools to further combat prostitution and trafficking networks. One set of laws targets the client; the other targets the prostitute. Soliciting sex from a prostitute is a minor offence subject to a fine; however, legislators under pressure from the Minister of Interior moved to categorize this behavior as a crime. The second tool being used to combat prostitution is to charge the client with the offense of "sexual exhibition" (engaging in sexual behavior in public). Prostitutes may also be prosecuted for touting sex or "sexual exhibition." Constituents criticized mayors of large cities including Strasbourg, Bordeaux, and Lyon for the highly visible prostitution in those cities; as a result, the local governments moved prostitutes away from the city centers, schools and public institutions by invoking a police decree against stationing prostitutes within city limits.

In March new laws that target clients of child prostitutes took effect. They prohibit solicitation of sex with a minor in exchange for money and make this a crime punishable by up to 10 years in jail and a maximum fine of $207,900 (200,000 euros). In July two men were charged in separate cases after being caught by authorities with Romanian child prostitutes, but judgements had not been rendered by year’s end. In October a man in Bordeaux was convicted for sexual relations with a child prostitute and required to pay $260 (250 euros) of the $1,040 (1,000 euros) fine originally imposed.

Several law enforcement agencies were involved in the effort to combat trafficking. OCRTEH was under the authority of the central criminal investigation directorate of the police judiciare, which handled organized crime. OCRTEH centralized information and coordinated operations to counter trafficking and maintained contacts with the police, the Gendarmerie, the border police, foreign and international law enforcement authorities, and NGOs. Regional services of the police judiciare also combat trafficking, and the police judiciare had brigades to combat pimping in Paris and Marseille. Local police forces also addressed problems of prostitution and pimping.

The Government regularly cooperated on a bilateral basis or with international institutions such as Europol to investigate, track, and dismantle trafficking rings. In early October, a multinational operation dubbed "Girasole" (Sunflower) led to 80 arrests and the dismantling of a major trafficking network that operated out of the Ukraine, but was also present in France, Spain, Germany, and Austria.

In July 2001, police broke up a human trafficking ring involving at least 12 non-French traffickers operating from a refugee center in Calais, where they were accused of trafficking people through the Channel tunnel to the United Kingdom. In January the court in Boulogne sentenced the primary organizers to periods ranging from 4 to 6 years in jail. The other members of the ring were given shorter sentences.

The country was a destination for trafficked victims, primarily women from Moldova, Ukraine, and Romania. Women were also trafficked from Haiti and Africa, particularly Nigeria, Togo, and the Democratic Republic of the Congo. The number of women trafficked from the former Soviet Union, Eastern Europe, and the Balkans increased and received increased press attention. In general victims were trafficked into sexual exploitation or domestic slavery. In addition, the country was a transit point for women trafficked for sexual purposes from South America and Eastern and Southern Europe.

NGOs estimated that there were between 3,000 and 8,000 child prostitutes in the country. The majority were brought in illegally and exploited by organized crime networks. Most were between 15 and 18 years old; however, some were as young as 10 years old. The girls were primarily trafficked from Eastern Europe (Albania, Kosovo, Ukraine, Bulgaria, Russia, and the Czech Republic) and West Africa (Sierra Leone, Nigeria, Ghana, and Cameroon). The country was also a destination for trafficked Romanian children, many of Romani descent. These children have traditionally been widely used by their handlers as beggars and thieves throughout the country. Many of these child thieves/beggars increasingly turned to prostitution. In October Minister of Interior Sarkozy and the Romanian Minister of Foreign Affairs signed an agreement that would return Romanian children and prostitutes illegally in France to Romania. The first deportations under this agreement took place in December.

There were organized rings of traffickers, primarily from southeast Europe, and the number of young women, often between the ages of 16 and 19, brought into the country to work as prostitutes continued to increase. Many women and girls were resold from one network to another, and the open borders under the Schengen Accords made it difficult for police to monitor and count them. During the year 2002, officials estimated that the prostitution trade had increased by 30 percent since 1997. Police estimated that of the 12,000 to 15,000 women prostitutes who worked in France, as many as 90 percent were forced into the trade by "micro-trafficking networks." Some victims came as a result of fraud or force; some were brought by a friend, or a friend of a friend; others had worked as prostitutes in their home countries and were willing to continue the practice to pay for their immigration papers. Traffickers used methods ranging from the confiscation of the victim’s identification papers to cultural isolation to physical or psychological abuse.

In September media reports stated that Nigerian organized crime groups were taking over the African prostitution market in the country. The traditional African "mamas" and their volunteer prostitute networks were being forced out in favor of a more strictly controlled sexual slave trade. The articles claimed that African prostitutes constituted 35 percent of all prostitutes in the country, surpassing the number of prostitutes from Eastern Europe (25 percent). The influx of new women exacerbated turf wars between the different organized crime groups operating the trafficking networks in the country.

Aide Sociale a l’Enfance (ASE), the national social services branch for childcare, was responsible for caring for and assisting victims under the age of 22. The Government had no specific protection programs in place for trafficking victims. Those victims located or arrested by the authorities normally were processed as illegal immigrants and may be detained or jailed. Trafficking victims may be granted temporary residency while they apply for asylum. Victims were encouraged to file legal action against traffickers. The Government worked closely with other countries and NGOs to combat trafficking. The Government supported trafficking prevention programs as part of the EU, including information and media campaigns, seminars, and a trafficking prevention project in West Africa. ASE worked closely with the Office for the Protection of Refugees and Stateless Persons. The Committee Against Modern Slavery brought cases of domestic and modern slavery to the authorities for prosecution.

Numerous NGOs dealt with trafficking in persons and prostitution. The Parada Association worked towards integrating Romanian child beggars and prostitutes into society. The Scelles Foundation, which had a center for international research and documentation of sexual exploitation, provided information to the media on the issue and supported other associations in the country and around the world. The NGO L’Amicale du Nid worked directly with prostitutes.



France is an important transit country to other European countries, particularly for heroin originating in southwest Asia, cocaine originating in South America, cannabis originating in Morocco, and ecstasy originating in The Netherlands. The majority of these narcotics enter France through the Netherlands. Although heroin usage appears to be declining, it continues to be a concern to French law enforcement officials. Cocaine consumption is increasing as its use spreads into the middle and lower economic classes, and cannabis (primarily hashish) consumption continues to be a problem, particularly among 14-18-year olds. A major concern of French officials is an increase in the use of ecstasy by persons ranging in age from 16 to 30 years old. Like other European countries, France is increasingly facing the problem of "polytoxicomanie," or multiple drug addiction. France is a party to the 1988 UN Drug Convention.

French government narcotics data for 1997, released in the spring of 1998, show that arrests for trafficking in heroin and cannabis remain significantly greater than for any other drug (narcotics data for 1998 will be released in 1999), although in 1997 heroin seizures dropped 32.69 percent and there was a 18.70 percent decrease in the number of arrests for heroin use/resale. This would indicate that actual use was also down, reversing for the second year in a row, a 20-year trend of increased use. French authorities have noted, however, that many heroin addicts may only have switched to other drugs or are in treatment for their addiction. Cannabis and ecstasy continue to be the most widely abused drugs in France. French officials estimate there are two to four million users of cannabis in France.

The Government of France (GOF) enacted no new narcotics legislation in 1998. France’s drug control agency, "La Mission Interministerielle De Lutte Contre La Drogue et la Toxicomanie" (MILDT), underwent internal changes that have improved its ability to set and coordinate France’s national policy among the many different departments involved. In addition, MILDT’s mandate was expanded to include alcohol, tobacco, and legal drugs. In October, MILDT proposed a new national drug policy in a three-year plan of action it submitted to Prime Minister Lionel Jospin. Elements of the new policy include: integrating efforts against the abuse of tobacco, alcohol, and legal drugs into France’s anti-narcotics programs; focusing more on repressing drug trafficking (and particularly local trafficking) than on repressing drug usage; avoiding incarcerating persons arrested for "simple usage;" and, for all drugs, focusing on preventing occasional users from becoming abusers and on preventing abusers from developing a dependence. The new policy is focused on the gravity of the behavior of the user rather than on the toxicity of the drug used. In October, French Justice Minister Elisabeth Guigou hosted Justice Ministers from the European Union at a conference in Avignon, France, on the fight against organized crime in Europe.

A revitalized MILDT enabled the GOF to formulate its new national drug policy. On December 10, France signed a Mutual Legal Assistance Treaty (MLAT) with the US. In 1998, France participated in expert group meetings that resulted in a preliminary draft of a United Nations Convention to combat transnational organized crime.

French counternarcotics authorities are efficient and effective. In 1998, French authorities in southeast France arrested 30 members of an organization that smuggled Colombian cocaine into France and other European countries from South America via Venezuela, Guyana and the Dutch Antilles. An investigation by the Police Judiciaire of Marseille also led to the arrest of 19 people involved in cocaine trafficking from Colombia via Spain to France. In the Spring of 1998, over 3,000 police and customs officers from France, Belgium, The Netherlands, Germany, and Luxembourg participated in an enforcement operation which targeted different drug trafficking routes. The operation reportedly resulted in significant heroin, hashish and cocaine seizures.

Narcotics-related corruption among French public officials is not a problem. The USG is not aware of any involvement by senior officials in the production or distribution of drugs or in the laundering of drug proceeds.

France is a party to the 1988 UN Drug Convention, as well as a party to the 1961 UN Single Convention and its 1972 Protocol, and the 1971 UN Convention on Psychotropic Substances. The USG and the GOF have narcotics-related agreements, including a 1971 agreement on coordinating action against illicit trafficking. In 1996, the U.S. and France signed a new Extradition Treaty to replace the old treaty and supplementary treaty currently in effect. The new Treaty was approved by the U.S. Senate in October 1998, and awaits ratification by both governments. Although French law does not permit the extradition of French nationals, France has offered to prosecute some French nationals for crimes committed in the U.S. As a participant in the G-8 Lyon Group, France [has also accepted "best practices" for countries that do not extradite their own nationals.] what does this mean? The U.S. and France signed a Mutual Legal Assistance Treaty (MLAT) on December 10[what year]. In 1998, the GOF also signed a bilateral agreement with The Netherlands designed to improve coordination between law enforcement officials against narcotics traffickers.

The USG has a Customs Mutual Legal Assistance Agreement (CMAA) with the GOF. French officials participate in international multilateral drug control efforts, including UNDCP, the Financial Action Task Force (FATF), and the Dublin Group. France pledged approximately $1.5 million in voluntary contributions above its regular assessment to the UNDCP in 1998 with particular emphasis on judicial assistance, money laundering, and border controls in southwest Asia. The Foreign Office of Security Affairs, which monitors terrorism, organized crime, narcotics and money laundering, participated actively in international drug control efforts during the year.

French authorities believe the cultivation and production of illicit drugs is not a problem in France. France cultivates opium poppies for medical use and produces amphetamines. It reports its production of both products to the International Narcotics Control Board (INCB) and cooperates with the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) to monitor and control those products.

France is an important transshipment point for illicit drugs, especially heroin, to other European countries. Heroin is shipped into the French domestic market primarily from The Netherlands, although significant amounts of heroin also enter France from Turkey, Germany, Belgium and Romania. Most of the heroin entering France originates in southwest Asia (primarily Afghanistan and Pakistan). French authorities believe that only a minor amount of heroin from Colombia is currently entering France. Approximately 67 percent of the heroin seized in France in 1997 was destined for domestic users. France is also a significant transit route for Moroccan cannabis destined for European markets and for South American cocaine destined for the U.S. and Western Europe. There is no evidence that drugs transiting France reach the U.S. in amounts that significantly affect the US. West African drug traffickers are using France as a transshipment point for cocaine originating in South America. Most of the ecstasy in France originates in The Netherlands, but French officials think increasing amounts are coming from eastern European countries, such as the Czech Republic and Poland.

MILDT is responsible for coordinating France’s demand reduction programs. Drug education efforts target government officials, counselors, teachers, and medical personnel. The GOF is continuing its experimental methadone treatment program. Although there continues to be public debate concerning decriminalization of cannabis, the GOF is opposed to any change in the 1970 drug law that criminalizes all uses of illicit substances.

USG and GOF counternarcotics and law enforcement cooperation is excellent.The U.S. will continue its cooperation with France on all counternarcotics fronts, including in multilateral efforts such as the Dublin Group and UNDCP. French police and DEA officials continue to work well together. The USG will continue to seek to conclude a bilateral counternarcotics maritime agreement for the French Caribbean with France. The USG will also continue to urge France to enact laws that would allow France to share seized and forfeited assets with other countries in cases involving international counternarcotics cooperation.


Internet research assisted by Gerralynn Owen

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