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Arbitrary Arrest, Detention, and Exile
The law prohibits arbitrary arrest and detention, and the Government generally observed these prohibitions; however, credible sources have criticized the judicial system for its inability to process suspects quickly. Authorities investigated allegations of abuse by officials and punished those responsible when the allegations were substantiated.
The civilian force of 118,000 national police and the military force of 90,000 national gendarmes ensure internal security, under the direction of the Minister of Interior. During the year, these services registered a total of 3,974,694 crimes and misdemeanors and collected sufficient evidence to make charges in 28.83 percent of the recorded offenses. Police efficiency since 2002 increased as more investigations were completed and more persons prosecuted.
Impunity was not a problem; the Inspector General of the National Police and the Office of Judicial Police investigated and prosecuted allegations of police brutality. The independent National Commission on the Conduct of Police and Security Forces investigated and reported to the Prime Minister and Parliament on cases of misconduct by national and municipal police, gendarmes, and private security forces. The National Consultative Commission on Human Rights also monitored police conduct. Corruption was generally not a problem. The Government actively investigated and prosecuted allegations of police corruption. The courts were particularly severe where corruption was concerned, particularly within the police force.
The Inspector General of the National Police received 592 registered complaints about illegitimate police violence in 2002, 566 such complaints in 2001, and 548 in 2000. The majority of these complaints were registered in the Paris region. In Paris, 32 officers were disciplined for violence on duty in 2002; 23 officers were disciplined for violence on duty in 2001; 27 officers were disciplined in 2000. The Ministry of Interior attributed the upward trend to a combination of increased crime, increased police vigilance, and the reinstitution of police patrols in the most dangerous neighborhoods. Police training emphasized minimizing the use of force.
Police are required by law to obtain warrants prior to taking persons into custody. Detainees have access to lawyers. Suspects must have access to a lawyer within 1 hour of being detained. Pretrial detention is generally only allowed if there is a possibility that the suspect would be sentenced to more than 3 years in prison for crimes against persons and to more than 5 years in prison for crimes against property. There is a system of bail.
Some suspects spend many years in prison before a trial, which government officials have acknowledged is due in part to insufficient government resources to expedite the investigation and trial process. According to the Ministry of Justice Prison Administration, as of September, 21,278 of the 57,440 persons held in jails and prisons were awaiting trial.
The law prohibits forced exile, and the Government did not employ it.
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