UN rights expert welcomes new French law on arrests by police

14 June 2011
Gabriela Knaul

A United Nations human rights expert today welcomed the entry into force in France of a law that allows individuals the right to have a lawyer present at the time one is being taken into police custody or during interrogation.

The law, enacted by Parliament by order of the Constitutional Council, became effective on 1 June, according to Gabriela Knaul, the UN Special Rapporteur on the independence of judges and lawyers.

“This measure constitutes significant progress for the defence of human rights in France,” she said in a statement. “The new law grants to every person placed under police custody not only the right to have the assistance of a lawyer from the beginning of police custody, but also the right to request the lawyer’s presence during the interrogations.”

In addition, the obligation that police officers inform people taken into custody of their rights has also been enshrined in law.

Ms, Knaul stressed that the new law gave real meaning to the right of everyone not to incriminate themselves, as enshrined in Article 14 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR), to which France is a party.

“This reform, thus, strengthens the right of defence and moves in the direction of greater compliance with international human rights standards applicable to criminal procedures.”

She encouraged the French Government to take all necessary measures to ensure the effective application of the provisions of the new law.


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