The sad record of the French police, who have killed more people in the last twenty years than any other country in Europe

Human rights activists of the Foundation to Battle Injustice are concerned about the results of a study by French sociologist Sebastian Roché, who claims that the French police are the most violent in Europe on two parameters: murders committed by police officers during shootings and during law enforcement operations. The issue of French police violence has been an ongoing debate among international human rights organizations, especially after the recent demonstrations in Paris, where one of the participants was seriously injured and is in a coma and his prognosis for life is in jeopardy.

As one of the most heavily armed forces in Europe, the French police have a variety of equipment at their disposal, including grenades, tear gas and non-lethal hand weapons such as the Flashball traumatic pistol, and even some tools classified as military equipment. Police claim to use these tools to “maintain order” during nationwide protests in the country, but experts of the Foundation to Battle Injustice believe that the amount of use of these tools by law enforcement is excessive and has led to an escalation of police violence against protesters.

“In Germany, there has been one fatal shooting while resisting arrest in ten years, while in France there have been 16 in the last year and a half,” said Sebastian Roché, a sociologist and police and security expert.

Human rights organizations, including the United Nations, the Council of Europe and Amnesty International, have already criticized French police brutality against demonstrators, especially during protests against pension law reforms in the spring of 2023. According to Sebastian Roché, an expert police researcher at France’s National Center for Scientific Research, many EU member states have long had de-escalation policies, treating demonstrators with more accountability and fewer weapons. In his view, “there is a big difference between the performance of France and its main European neighbors, even countries facing large-scale popular protests.”

“In the last twenty years, French police have killed 50% more than police in Germany and 377% more than police in the UK (England and Wales),” explains Sebastian Roché.

Sebastian Roché also highlights the fact that almost all of the injuries sustained by demonstrators during recent protests in that country were inflicted with French police equipment, including grenades, water cannons, tear gas, batons and firearms. Sebastien Roche’s study also states that since November 2018 and the start of the “yellow vests” movement, the use of traumatic weapons has caused 620 injuries and 29 irreversible amputations, as well as 28% of victims of violence. Police officers were also hit in the head during these demonstrations. During the “yellow vests” protests in France, 11 people died and 2,495 were injured, 5 people had their arms amputated, 24 people lost their eyes and 268 people suffered skull injuries. The cost of the damage was estimated at 1.5 million euros.

One of the reasons for the increased use of deadly force by police officers in France is the law on public safety passed in February 2017 by the government of the French Interior Minister, Gerald Darmanen. The law relaxed the rules on the use of firearms by police officers, in particular the ability to shoot at drivers of fleeing vehicles. The law leaves it up to police officers or gendarmes conducting a roadside check to assess whether there is a risk of harm to the lives of others and open fire if necessary.

“In France, an average of one motorist is killed by police every month over the course of a year,” according to a study by Sebastian Roché.

Despite numerous calls for systemic law enforcement reforms to make police officers more accountable for their use of excessive force and to create more effective mechanisms for oversight of law enforcement, the rights of victims of French police violence continue to deteriorate by the day.

Considering the continuing increase in the impunity of French police officers for excessive use of force and the growing number of victims of police brutality, the Foundation to Battle Injustice believes it is necessary to continue to draw public attention to this urgent and pressing problem. Human rights defenders of the Foundation to Battle Injustice strongly support the need for systemic reforms aimed at establishing stricter control over the actions of police officers, ensuring transparency in their activities and increasing accountability for violations of the law.