137. The Committee considered the second periodic report of France (CAT/C/17/Add.18) at its 320th, 321st and 322nd meetings, on 6 May 1998 (CAT/C/SR.320, 321 and 322), and adopted the following conclusions and recommendations.
138. The Committee is gratified to note that the second periodic report of France complies with the general guidelines for periodic reports (CAT/C/14), although it was submitted some six years late.
139. The Committee listened with great interest to the oral presentation which, like the report, revealed the efforts of the State party to be honest, specific and comprehensive, and to the explanations and clarifications furnished by the French delegation, which displayed a clear desire for constructive dialogue and a solid professionalism.
140. The Committee is particularly gratified at the fact that the composition and size of the delegation clearly demonstrated France’s interest in the work of the Committee.
2. Positive aspects
141. The Committee was pleased to note the following positive aspects:
(a) The manifest determination of the French Government to combat torture, shown in particular in certain provisions of the new Criminal Code, for example, articles 221-1, 222-1 and 432-4 to 432-6;
(b) The numerous projected improvements to legislation and current practice, such as the creation of a supreme ethics council; the drafting of a practical ethics handbook for use by the police forces; the guidelines on prison monitoring; the reactivation of the supreme prison administration council; the principle that a lawyer should be present from the outset of custody for most offences; and the curtailment of the duration of pre-trial detention;
(c) The announcement of a further contribution to the United Nations Voluntary Fund for Victims of Torture.
3. Factors and difficulties impeding the application of the provisions of the Convention
142. The Committee notes that there are no particular impediments to the implementation of the Convention in France.
4. Subjects of concern
143. The Committee is concerned about the following:
(a) The absence, in French positive law, of a definition of torture which conforms fully with article 1 of the Convention;
(b) The system of “appropriateness of prosecution”, leaving public prosecutors free to decide not to prosecute perpetrators of acts of torture, or even to order an inquiry, which is clearly in conflict with the provisions of article 12 of the Convention;
(c) That aspect of the procedure for taking evidence under which the courts are not explicitly prohibited from admitting evidence obtained under torture, which contravenes article 15 of the Convention;
(d) The practice whereby the police hand over individuals to their counterparts in another country, despite the fact that a French court has declared such practices to be illegal; this is contrary to the duties of the State party under article 3 of the Convention;
(e) Sporadic allegations of violence committed by members of the police and gendarmerie at the time of arrest of suspects and during questioning.
144. The State party should consider incorporating into its criminal law a definition of torture which conforms with article 1 of the Convention.
145. The State party should pay greater attention to the provisions of article 3 of the Convention, which applies equally to expulsion, refoulement and extradition and, as demanded by a number of non-governmental organizations and as proposed by the National Advisory Committee on Human Rights, the possibility should exist of lodging a suspensive appeal against a refusal to allow entry into France and subsequent refoulement.
146. The State party should pay maximum attention to allegations of violence by members of the police forces, with a view to instigating impartial inquiries and, in proven cases, applying appropriate penalties.
147. In this connection, and in the interest of conforming with the letter and spirit of article 12 of the Convention, the State party should consider abrogating the current system of “appropriateness of prosecution” in order to remove all doubt regarding the obligation of the competent authorities to institute systematically and on their own initiative impartial inquiries in all cases where there are reasonable grounds for believing that an act of torture has been committed anywhere within the territory under their jurisdiction.
148. The State party is invited to submit its third periodic report as soon as possible in order to adhere to the schedule for the submission of reports laid down in the Convention.