Feeds

French cops claimed to hold secret, illegal gypsy database

Les gendarmes deny ethnic minority tracker

High performance access to file storage

The French national police force – la Gendarmerie – yesterday stood accused of operating a secret and illegal database of Roma and other travelling minorities.

The existence of this database was reported in great detail in yesterday's Le Monde. It came to light by chance, when a 48-page powerpoint presentation, prepared by a Commandant in the Central Bureau for prevention of Traveller Crime (OCLDI), and presented to a meeting of Transport Businesses in November 2004, turned up on the internet.

If confirmed, this database represents the logical conclusion to an ever-more-intrusive surveillance of travellers and ethnic minorities by the police – and is likely to prove doubly embarrassing to French President Nikolas Sarkozy. Firstly, because the very first article of the French Constitution asserts that the Republic "guarantees the equality before the law of all citizens, irrespective of racial origin or religion". Secondly, because M. Sarkozy was the focus for serious international criticism this summer when he stepped up the deportations of Roma from France to their native Romania and Bulgaria. EU Justice Commissioner Viviane Reding compared France's actions to persecutions in Nazi-occupied France, an accusation met with fury by M Sarkozy, who said that the comparison was "unacceptable".

The Gendarmerie, clearly embarrassed, have denied allegations that they are tracking the Roma population with a dataset. They claim that while there may have been mention in the Powerpoint presentation of Roma and MENS (an acronym for a system understood to stand for "ethnic minorities without permanent abode"), this was before the formation of the OCLDI.

Sadly, this will not wash, as the OCLDI was created in June 2004, some five months before the date of the presentation.

According to the Gendarmerie: "The only database used by the OCLDI is an administrative database, logging the regional distribution of individuals without permanent abode – with no reference at all to race or ethnic origin". They are adamant: MENS does not exist.

There are problems also with this version of events. A further presentation to gendarmes, this time of Forbidden Zone, the house magazine of the OCLDI in May 2008 led one commenter to remark: "Uh oh! There are going to be questions asked about MENS – and there are going to be all sorts of recriminations and "jeremiads" from the representatives of these "poor victims" going on about 'police persecution'."

Human Rights lawyers William Bourdon and Francoise Cotta, acting on behalf of a coalition that includes La Voix des Rroms (Roma Voice) , the French Union of Gipsy Associations (UFAT), the National Federation for support of Gipsies and Travellers la fédération (Fnasat), and the Catholic Travellers Association (ANGVC) are up in arms.

According to M. Bourdon: "These files can only put various communities, in France and abroad, in mind of some very bad memories indeed. They appear to be symptomatic of a pathological security mindset that has carried on continuously for the last two and a half years".

Mme Cotta added: "This is not 1940. We are looking for a swift public response confirming an end to this very rapidly. It is at the heart of government that the most serious threat to social order is to be found".

In a separate development today, Liberal Democrat European justice and human rights spokeswoman and London MEP Sarah Ludford intervened, speaking out against allegations that the French authorities have also been taking DNA samples from Roma people without proper authorisation.

The Baroness is a long time campaigner on Roma rights, and in 2008, she led a campaign to stop the Italian government fingerprinting Roma people. She told El Reg: "What further evidence does the European Commission need to start questioning France on whether its anti-Roma policy breaks EU rules against race discrimination? Fundamental rights European Commissioner Viviane Reding must now demand proof of compliance, and threaten infringement proceedings, on race discrimination as well as free movement."

She added: "I urge the Commission to also consider this targeted fingerprinting and DNA sample collection when investigating the case against France. This is discriminatory and must be stopped." ®

High performance access to file storage

More from The Register

next story
Obama allows NSA to exploit 0-days: report
If the spooks say they need it, they get it
Parent gabfest Mumsnet hit by SSL bug: My heart bleeds, grins hacker
Natter-board tells middle-class Britain to purée its passwords
Web data BLEEDOUT: Users to feel the pain as Heartbleed bug revealed
Vendors and ISPs have work to do updating firmware - if it's possible to fix this
OpenSSL Heartbleed: Bloody nose for open-source bleeding hearts
Bloke behind the cockup says not enough people are helping crucial crypto project
One year on: diplomatic fail as Chinese APT gangs get back to work
Mandiant says past 12 months shows Beijing won't call off its hackers
Call of Duty 'fragged using OpenSSL's Heartbleed exploit'
So it begins ... or maybe not, says one analyst
Experian subsidiary faces MEGA-PROBE for 'selling consumer data to fraudster'
US attorneys general roll up sleeves, snap on gloves
Oz bank in comedy Heartbleed blog FAIL
Bank: 'We are now safely patched.' Customers: 'You were using OpenSSL?'
prev story

Whitepapers

Mainstay ROI - Does application security pay?
In this whitepaper learn how you and your enterprise might benefit from better software security.
Five 3D headsets to be won!
We were so impressed by the Durovis Dive headset we’ve asked the company to give some away to Reg readers.
3 Big data security analytics techniques
Applying these Big Data security analytics techniques can help you make your business safer by detecting attacks early, before significant damage is done.
The benefits of software based PBX
Why you should break free from your proprietary PBX and how to leverage your existing server hardware.
Mobile application security study
Download this report to see the alarming realities regarding the sheer number of applications vulnerable to attack, as well as the most common and easily addressable vulnerability errors.