Richard North, 09/04/2005  

Although the Amnesty International report on French police violence seems to have been ignored by the British media, Le Monde, to its credit, did give a fair degree of prominence to the story, with the headline: "Amnesty critique le traitement des violences policières".

A day later, with awful symmetry, police brutality was back in the headlines, when heavily-armed CRS riot police waded into groups of high school demonstrators in Lille and Paris, conducting a peaceful sit-in in protest against education reforms, the so-called "Fillon law".

In full view of TV cameras, making the main slot on the TV news that day, the CRS laid into the pupils with batons, as well as kicking those sitting on the ground.

Nor is this the only questionable activity of the police in relation to student demonstrations against the Fillon law. In Paris on 15 February, a thousand "agitators" violently attacked demonstrating high-school pupils while the police stood by passively and watched.

These incidents have provoked a stern editorial from Le Monde, which has drawn a parallel with France’s protests against police violence in Istanbul against women on International Womens' Day, noting that while France criticises Turkey's membership application to EU, it should set a good example for Turkey in terms of individual freedoms.

The lesson has not been lost on the Turks, whose on-line journal,, has picked up the Le Monde commentary with the headline: "France Must Show Good Example before Criticising Turkey".

It forbore to mention that, while its human rights record is being invoked as a reason for excluding Turkey from the EU, if the tables were reversed and France was applying to join the EU, on current performance it probably would not qualify.

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