Nahel, a 17-year-old of North African descent, was shot and killed by police during a traffic stop on Tuesday. His death has sparked a third night of unrest in France, with cars torched, shops ransacked, and hundreds arrested.
UN human rights office spokeswoman Ravina Shamdasani said the shooting was a “moment for the country to seriously address the deep issues of racism and discrimination in law enforcement.”
‘All options’ are on the table
French Prime Minister Elisabeth Borne said the government was considering “all options” to restore order, including declaring a state of emergency.
A state of emergency would give local authorities increased powers to declare localised curfews, ban demonstrations, and give police more freedom in restraining suspected rioters and searching homes.
The head of state was said by an aide on Friday to be prepared to adapt security measures “without taboos”, suggesting tougher measures were under consideration.
During the last nationwide urban riots in 2005, the then right-wing government declared a state of emergency after around two weeks of clashes.
The far-right National Rally party has called for a curfew to be imposed, followed by a full state of emergency and the mobilization of all the forces of law and order in the country.
The unrest has revived longstanding grievances about policing and racial profiling in France’s low-income and multiethnic suburbs.
In 2020, a report by the French government’s Defender of Rights found that there was “systemic” racism in the French police. The report found that black and Arab people were more likely to be stopped and searched by police, and that they were more likely to be subjected to violence by police.
The report also found that there was a lack of trust between the police and minority communities.
The unrest in France comes at a time when there is a growing awareness of racial injustice around the world. In the United States, the Black Lives Matter movement has put a spotlight on police brutality and racial profiling.
The protests in France are a reminder that racial discrimination is a problem that exists in many countries, including France. The government must take steps to address this problem and build trust between the police and minority communities.