Feeds

French cops claimed to hold secret, illegal gypsy database

Les gendarmes deny ethnic minority tracker

Choosing a cloud hosting partner with confidence

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." ®

Choosing a cloud hosting partner with confidence

More from The Register

next story
UK smart meters arrive in 2020. Hackers have ALREADY found a flaw
Energy summit bods warned of free energy bonanza
DRUPAL-OPCALYPSE! Devs say best assume your CMS is owned
SQLi hole was hit hard, fast, and before most admins knew it needed patching
Knock Knock tool makes a joke of Mac AV
Yes, we know Macs 'don't get viruses', but when they do this code'll spot 'em
Feds seek potential 'second Snowden' gov doc leaker – report
Hang on, Ed wasn't here when we compiled THIS document
Mozilla releases geolocating WiFi sniffer for Android
As if the civilians who never change access point passwords will ever opt out of this one
Why weasel words might not work for Whisper
CEO suspends editor but privacy questions remain
prev story

Whitepapers

Why cloud backup?
Combining the latest advancements in disk-based backup with secure, integrated, cloud technologies offer organizations fast and assured recovery of their critical enterprise data.
Getting started with customer-focused identity management
Learn why identity is a fundamental requirement to digital growth, and how without it there is no way to identify and engage customers in a meaningful way.
Reg Reader Research: SaaS based Email and Office Productivity Tools
Read this Reg reader report which provides advice and guidance for SMBs towards the use of SaaS based email and Office productivity tools.
Intelligent flash storage arrays
Tegile Intelligent Storage Arrays with IntelliFlash helps IT boost storage utilization and effciency while delivering unmatched storage savings and performance.
Website security in corporate America
Find out how you rank among other IT managers testing your website's vulnerabilities.