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France Adopts Bias Crimes Legislation RULE

Posted: December 12, 2002

The French National Assembly has unanimously adopted legislation making it an “aggravated crime” to commit acts of violence on the basis of race, religion or ethnic background.

The lower house of parliament on December 10 ordered special penalties for such crimes in the wake of more than 400 attacks on Jews and Jewish institutions, mostly by young Arab immigrants, between the fall 2000 and spring 2002. The action is seen as a reflection of a get-tough policy of the conservative government and parliamentary majority elected this year, and the new interior minister, Nicholas Sarkozy.

The legislation requires confirmation by the Senate, which is considered all but certain.

Before the vote, a high official of the Justice Ministry, Pierre Bedier, made clear that the legislation was requested by the government because “recent events indicate a worrisome increase in the number of crimes inspired by anti-Semitism.”

Over the past two years, as attacks on individual Jews, synagogues, school buses or Jewish shops mounted, French and American Jewish agencies, including the Anti-Defamation League, repeatedly called for tougher action by law enforcement against anti-Semitic violence.

The attacks decreased markedly after the election this spring. But they have not ceased entirely. In early December, vandals ransacked a synagogue in Perigueux in southwestern France, destroying holy books, artwork, and stealing money from the synagogue office.

The new legislation calls for higher penalties when a crime is committed against a person because of his or her racial, religious or ethnic background.
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