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Special Rapporteur on Independence of judges and lawyers welcomes new law on police custody in France

GENEVA (14 June 2011) – The Special Rapporteur on the independence of judges and lawyers, Gabriela Knaul, welcomed the entry into force, on 1 June, of the new law on police custody in France. This law, enacted by the Parliament by order of the Constitutional Council, provides the possibility to request the presence of a lawyer from the beginning of police custody.

“This measure constitutes significant progress for the defence of human rights in France,” the Special Rapporteur said. “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 for police officers to inform the person placed under custody of her or his rights is now enshrined in law. She or he must immediately be informed of her or his right to be assisted by a lawyer, and of her or his right to remain silent during questioning, or to reply in whole or in part to the questions asked.

The United Nations independent expert stressed that this law gives real meaning to the right of everyone not to testify against her or himself or confess guilt (principle of non self-incrimination), as enshrined in Article 14(3)(g) of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, to which France is a party. “This reform, thus, strengthens the right of defense,” Ms. Knaul said, “and moves in the direction of greater compliance with international human rights standards applicable to criminal procedures.”

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

Gabriela Knaul took up her functions as UN Special Rapporteur on the independence of judges and lawyers on 1 August 2009. In that capacity, she acts independently from any Government or organization. Ms. Knaul has a long-standing experience as a judge in Brazil and is an expert in criminal justice and the administration of judicial systems.

Learn more about the mandate and work of the Special Rapporteur: http://www2.ohchr.org/english/issues/judiciary/index.htm

OHCHR Country page – France: http://www.ohchr.org/EN/Countries/ENACARegion/Pages/FRIndex.aspx

For more information and media requests, please contact Mr. Nikolaus Schultz (Tel.: + 41 22 917 9402 / email: nschultz@ohchr.org) or write to srindependencejl@ohchr.org

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