France: Judicial System’s Response to Racist Brutality

Three French police officers have been convicted of “voluntary violence” towards a French Black man, Theodore Luhaka, in Aulnay-sous-Bois, a working-class suburb with a large immigrant population. Luhaka was left disabled with a ruptured internal sphincter and a 10-centimeter lesion of the anal canal, similar to that of Abner Louima in 1997.

Officer Marc-Antoine Castelain was found guilty of an offense rather than a crime after refusing to acknowledge a victim’s permanent disability. He received a 12-month suspended prison sentence and a five-year prohibition from public practice. His colleagues Jeremie Dulin and Tony Hochart received three-month suspended sentences. The court rejected the charge of deliberate violence resulting in permanent mutilation or infirmity.

A 29-year-old Belgian man, Luhaka, has been accused of police brutality, resulting in his death. Luhaka, who was aspiring to become a professional soccer player, was about to join a scouted Belgian club. He suffers from incontinence and spends most of his time in his apartment watching TV. The case was a rare one to be tried in a court, as police watchdog body IPGN concluded that there was a “disproportionate use of force” and that the baton blows were inflicted at a time when Luhaka was not attacking the physical integrity of the police officers. Officers Castellan, Castellan, and Dulin used pepper spray at Luhaka while he was handcuffed and on the ground. Officer Hochart, who was convicted, said he did his job in compliance with the law and only gave Luhaka a “light” punch in the stomach to wind him.

France has experienced a series of riots following the arrest of convicted police officer, Castellan, who was involved in the shooting death of 17-year-old Nahel Merzouk during a police ID check in June. The officer, who fired into the stopped car, has been charged with voluntary homicide but was released during the investigation. Police carry out nearly 14 million identity checks in France annually, with young Black or Arab people being 20 times more likely to be stopped by police.

A policing expert at France’s National Center for Scientific Research called Luhaka’s case “emblematic” of persistent problems such as identity checks being used as a cover for racial profiling and the disproportionate use of nonlethal but potentially dangerous weapons.

FranceFrance: Judicial System's Response to Racist BrutalityFrench Black manFrench police officersTheodore Luhaka